Councils’ direct payments preference ‘driven by cuts’

Councils are pushing service users into taking direct payments on cost grounds, say social work leaders.

Councils are pushing service users into taking direct payments on cost grounds, say social work leaders.

The warning came after one-third of respondents to Community Care’s annual personalisation survey, commissioned by Unison, said their local authority had changed their policy to make direct payments the default option for personal budgets.

Unison’s national officer for social care, Helga Pile, said the “worrying development” meant “personalisation was being hijacked by the cost-cutting agenda” because it made it easier for councils to the shift burdens on to families.

One mental health social worker told Community Care that, although direct payments were “fantastic” for some people, users needed to be given the choice of having their personal budget managed by their council or a third party. “Pushing people down the most ‘cost effective’ route makes me more suspicious of the true motivation behind the agenda.”

However, care services minister Paul Burstow said the survey finding was positive, given the government’s aim to “provide personal budgets for everyone eligible by 2013″.

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