Individual budgets: professionals must adapt for policy to work

The “cultural” values of professionals remain one of the biggest barriers to rolling out individual budgets, according to research published ahead of a pilot scheme for disabled children.

Local authority managers would have to make “significant investments in time and effort” to effect the cultural changes needed, through staff training and “capacity building exercises” for providers and users, the report found.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families commissioned the scoping study to look at the best way to proceed with a pilot scheme extending individual budgets to families of disabled children, due to be launched in England in January

Limited capacity of local authorities

It found local authorities’ capacity to develop advocacy and brokerage services for families using individual budgets was limited.

The researchers, who consulted 100 stakeholders from local authorities, charities, service user groups and families, also found concerns around safeguarding, and confusion over which funding streams could be used.

Individual budgets, which have been piloted for adults in 13 areas, involve a range of funding streams, unlike personal budgets, which only include social care funds.


However, the report found the level of interest in the service among parents was high, with many favouring the “added value” of improved choice and control.

The study was published as part of the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme, which aims to improve access to services, including short breaks, and increasing families’ ability to shape provision.

The scoping report recommends that pilots should take place in eight to ten areas, each covering 30-50 service users.

Focus on specific groups

It says individual budgets could benefit the following groups: 14-18 year olds, 5-6 year olds emerging from the Early Support programme, which helps families of young children soon after diagnosis, and newcomers to the care system.

The pilots will run until 2011, and are expected to cost £180,000 for each site, allowing facilities such as peer support groups, IT systems, and marketing to be developed.

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