Personalisation is being damaged by budget cuts and reduced choice and control, say social workers and service users.
Social workers on Community Care’s CareSpace forum have warned that councils are cutting back on the amount of money that they give service users through personal budgets and are restricting how they can spend it.
Social worker cb said: “It’s very clear to see that money available has decreased significantly. I am very disillusioned by the personalisation agenda and all those grand promises it made. To me, it seems we are delivering a lot less with a lot more paperwork and stress.”
Another contributor, DisillusionedSW, reported cuts of 25% in indicative levels of funding provided to older people with personal budgets in their council, adding: “We are anticipating more cuts. Sceptics said at the time that personalisation would be a way of reducing costs and it seems they were right.”
Other social workers have reported that councils are restricting what service users can do through personal budgets – contrary to personalisation’s ethos of delivering choice and control.
“We’re now seeing it all being chopped back to personal and practical care only, every imaginative solution to complex problems is being ruled out,” said Emily2.
The reports come in the week that social care leaders issued a blueprint for the further personalisation of services, Think Local, Act Personal, which called on councils and their partners to maximise choice for service users.
The reports on CareSpace were backed up by service user leaders.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, said she often gets calls from people whose personal budgets have been cut, some by as much as 40%.
“We are seeing some quite horrific figures, which really bear no relation to the reduction in funding that local authorities are getting.”
She added: “It doesn’t look transparent to me and I think local authorities need to come clean and explain to service users and their staff, who I think are being put in an impossible situation, exactly what the rationale is because I don’t understand it.”
The concerns were also echoed by Andrew Tyson, policy lead at In Control, the charity that has pioneered personalisation.
He said he had heard of some councils implementing severe cuts or restricting choice and control, but he did not know how widespread this was.
He added: “Personalisation should not be used as a smokescreen for cuts. The savings from self-directed support are realised when people are able to be creative.”
The warnings come ahead of the implementation of large scale cuts to council budgets from 1 April.
Jeff Jerome, national director for social care transformation, who is responsible for helping councils implement personalisation, said councils should not be placing restrictions on service users, particularly those who took personal budgets as direct payments.
“I have consistently stressed that there is no requirement for local authorities to restrict how personal budgets (taken as direct payments) should be spent. The only conditions are that budgets must be used on things that are legal and that contribute to the meeting of agreed outcomes, but how this is done should not be specified by local authorities. There has been no requirement ‘from the centre’ about councils setting out details of how money is to be spent.
“Councils that are restricting the way direct payments can be used are doing by their own determination. This is not in the spirit of choice and control and I will be seeking to remind councils of this once again.”
One the issue of councils cutting the value of budgets, he added: “There have always been challenges to the amount of resources available, even more so in the current financial context, but it remains unlawful to reduce resource without individual assessment.”
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