A significant minority of English councils have made slow progress on personalisation despite the three-year cash injection of £520m to drive it, say social care professionals.
There are also doubts over whether a government target to have all users on personal budgets by 2013 will be hit.
Nearly four in 10 respondents (38%) to Community Care’s annual personalisation survey, commissioned by Unison, said their council was either at an early stage of implementing personalisation or was only now making changes. Most respondents were from England, where councils received a £520m reform grant from 2008-11 to implement system changes and roll out personal budgets.
Though the coalition government is not providing further pump-priming investment for personalisation, it does want all publicly funded users to be on personal budgets by 2013. However, 39% of respondents believe this will not happen in their area.
“We are aware that progress in personal budget take-up varies across councils,” said a Department of Health spokesperson. “The government will shortly be issuing new directions to local authorities, which are intended to ensure a more consistent approach to the offer of personal budgets by all local authorities.”
Last year, official figures showed wide variations in personal budget take-up, ranging from 3.3% of eligible users and carers in Somerset to 58.7% in Manchester, with an average of 13% – a figure described as a “disgrace” by care services minister Paul Burstow. More recent figures put take-up of personal budgets at more than a quarter.
However, Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care, said there had been too much emphasis on personal budget take-up: “This government is still focusing on numbers of personal budgets,” Pile said. “It’s time to say that’s not what personalisation is about. It’s not about the transactions. It’s about looking at the quality and the independence.
“Personalisation has almost become synonymous with the process of giving someone a budget rather than what the outcome is.”
Amy Webster, of consultancy Ambrey Associates, which specialises in promoting person-centred support, said that, if the “broader personalisation picture” had received the same level of emphasis as personal budgets, “personalisation may not have been such a bumpy journey”.
More from the Community Care/Unison personalisation surveyPersonalisation leads to growth in non-qualified social care staff
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