A pioneer of personalisation has issued a strong critique of the idea that individual budget (IB) users require a new profession of independent brokers to help them navigate the care market.
Simon Duffy, former chief executive of In Control, the charity that developed the idea of self-directed support, said professional brokers risked promoting dependency for users and increasing costs and bureaucracy.
The warning came in a paper co-written with Kate Fulton, senior consultant for Paradigm, a consultancy that has also played a leading role in the development of personalisation.
It said that a model of independent professional brokerage was emerging which could become the dominant form of support for IB users.
This involved an individual, working independently of the local authority, planning and, initially, organising support for a service user but neither providing services nor managing the individual budget.
The paper said the central rationale put forward for the role was that people needed independent expert advice in relation to care, as they would for legal or financial issues.
But it stressed that individuals and their loved-ones were in the best position to know what constituted good care and support for them.
The paper also warned that the independent professional brokerage model was focused on providing initial, rather than ongoing support, preventing brokers from building expertise in solving problems for users.
It added that brokers would add costs in terms of direct charges, regulation, accreditation and training.
The report instead put forward a “community-based model of support”, in which people who needed support would draw on their families, peers, community groups and service providers.
The “small group” that did require professional help should receive support from social workers.
Duffy said: “We do not need a new profession of independent brokers – we need existing professionals, like social workers, to be given the chance to show that they can offer the right kind of support.”
The report was published by the Centre for Welfare Reform, a research network founded by Duffy this year.