Leading politicians from Wales’s ruling parties have indicated their opposition to rolling out personal budgets to adult social care users, contrary to the direction of policy being taken in England.
In a speech to the National Social Services Conference this week, Labour’s deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas, pledged her commitment to personalised services, with users’ views at the heart of policy, practice, and every care package.
But in a 30-minute speech she failed to mention personal budgets and said that personalisation did not mean handing out direct payments to everyone.
Wales yet to adopt personal budgets
Although direct payments have been available across the UK since 1997, Wales has not adopted personal budgets, which the UK government is aiming to provide for every adult in need of care and support in England over the long-term.
Under personal budgets, users are allocated a sum of money based on their needs, which they can take as a direct payment or leave to local authorities or others to manage.
Helen Mary Jones, Welsh Assembly member and spokesperson for health and social services for Plaid Cymru, which is in coalition with Labour, expressed concern “about the rush to individualised budgets”.
Older people ‘do not want bells and whistles’
She told the conference: “While they can be useful to disabled people, particularly younger adults, many of the older people I speak to say they want a strong, generic service. They don’t want bells and whistles, they just want the same carer to turn up every day so they are safe and not working to the vagaries of the market.”
Conservative assembly member Andrew Davies, who took up the role of shadow minister for health and social services in February, told delegates that he was “keeping an open mind” on the subject.
“I’ll be engaging with professionals and users over the next 12 months as we develop a strategy that meets the needs of Wales.”
Direct payment take-up in Wales
In 2007-8, 2.3% of people receiving community services in Wales were given a direct payment, up from 1.9% in 2006-7, according to the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales’s annual report.