Adult social care chiefs are to ask some councils why they have so few service users on personal budgets.
Last week the NHS Information Centre showed wide variations in take-up, ranging from 3.3% of eligible recipients in Somerset to 58.7% in Manchester.
Half of councils had less than 10%, while one in eight had more than 20%.
Jeff Jerome, the national director for social care transformation, who is working through Adass to help councils implement personalisation, said he would be speaking to slow-performing authorities to find out where the problems lay.
However, he insisted they were a minority.
“The variations are undesirable and we are going to have conversations with those councils to move more quickly,” Jerome said.
The reasons seemed to lie in difficulties in stimulating the market, or in councils having spent too much time developing systems.
Councils in England are expected to have 30% of service users on personal budgets by next March, under targets agreed by Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association and the Department of Health.
Adass and the LGA said councils were on course to meet this target for people who receive ongoing support, but not if people who receive short-term support were included in the figure, as is the case in the NHS Information Centre statistics.
Personalisation consultant Jeremy Cooper of iMPOWER said the figures were disappointing but not unexpected as the difference between “the advanced and the laggards” became more evident.
“Forward-thinking councils have realised that setting targets is helpful for driving behaviour, but the simple number on personal budgets isn’t the right target,” Cooper said.
“Genuine change is being measured by locally set success criteria. These include a range of things, such as the percentage choosing non-traditional packages, the level of savings made at review, the number where social workers have not driven the support plan or the increase in direct payments.”
Liz Bruce, strategic director of adults at Manchester Council, said: “Manchester has shown other authorities how to successfully manage it and how to mitigate the risks – and we are proud of the fact that we are leading the way.”
Miriam Maddison, director of community services at Somerset Council, admitted the authority had to improve.
“In Somerset all new eligible service users are offered a direct payment and existing service users are offered this option at review,” she said.
“We are implementing Putting People First through our You First programme. Our new operating model focuses on rehabilitation as the first, vital phase for almost all service users within a culture that promotes and supports independence, choice and control.
“We anticipate personal budgets being implemented as ‘business as usual’ by 1 April 2011.”
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