Paul Burstow: Personal budget take-up is a disgrace

Care services minister Paul Burstow has attacked councils over levels of personal budget take-up, though a social work blogger has challenged him on his comments.

It is a disgrace that only 13% of adult service users in England have access to personal budgets, care services minister Paul Burstow has said.

The figure, which represents take-up of personal budgets among users and carers in 2009-10, was revealed last month and involves a doubling of the figure for 2008-9.

But Burstow told a Liberal Democrat conference fringe meeting: “It’s disgraceful. We need to be far more critical of public services. Why are they not willing to let go of control?”

However, his comments were attacked by social worker and blogger Fighting Monsters, who works in an older people’s mental health team.

In a post today, she said: “What does he think that the lack of roll-out is to do with a nefarious political plot to hold on to the control aspect? No, it’s not. It’s all to do with poorly adapted and poorly administrated systems.”

She added: “I wish Mr Burstow would meet and talk with people who actually DO the job to understand the difficulties, rather than meeting and talking to people who manage people who do the job or people who write the policies or people who audit accounts.”

Burstow’s comments came at a Liberal Democrat conference fringe session on social care and the government’s Big Society agenda.

But Burstow also admitted that it will be tough for social care to deliver the spending cuts the government wants, which could entail a 25% reduction or more in council spending from 2011-15.

“It will be difficult to get the level of efficiency the Chancellor wants but there are huge discrepancies around the country. For instance, between 30% and 70% of councils; budgets are used for residential care. I hope people will be asking locally, why is there this discrepancy?”

Reablement and telecare services are the sort of tools councils should use to ensure they make best use of their money, Burstow added.

Burstow insisted that localism and personalisation will help change social care for the better over the next few years. “We want to better integrate services, make them more personalised and ensure that health and social care work better together,” he said.

“We are not just transitioning from one structure to another, we are transitioning to a new culture,” he added. “We are under no illusions about the difficulties, but there are huge opportunities to change our services.”

Burstow also revealed that health and social care officials at the Department of Health do not speak to each other. He pledged to change this. “I’m saying that in the Department of Health, social care officials will get together and start talking. If we can model this joined up working at the DH we can model it elsewhere.”

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