Service user leaders have said some councils are failing to contact people who could benefit from personal budgets.
Catherine Bewley, of learning disabilities group Values into Action, said it was “surprising” how many people were unaware of the programme.
Speaking last week, Bewley, senior projects officer, said she was “shocked” to discover recently a group of people with learning disabilities who “didn’t know that a personalisation pilot was taking place in their area”.
Time for informed debate
She told the London Direct Payments Forum of professionals and service users: “We have to start an informed, accessible debate with a lot of people, and take time to do that.”
Peter Beresford, director of national user organisation Shaping Our Lives, also urged policymakers to listen to the “experience and expertise” of support groups. He also raised concerns about a lack of awareness among service users about personal budgets, which are being rolled out across England from 2008-11.
The Putting People First concordat, signed by six government departments and sector leaders in December 2007, includes a pledge for user-led organisations to develop networks to give service users and their families in different areas “a collective voice, influencing policy and provision”.
User-led pledge needs ‘much more work’
But Beresford, professor of social policy at Brunel University, said this was an aspiration that required “much more work”.
Kevin Caulfield, development manager at the National Centre for Independent Living, added that partnerships between user-led organisations could help strengthen their collective voice. “We want to see more alliances between the groups, and the barriers between those groups and local authorities smashed down,” he said.