Councils slammed for curbing use of personal budgets

Councils have been slammed for denying clients choice and control after Community Care's personalisation survey found restrictions being placed on the use of personal budgets for items including holidays and computer equipment.

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Councils have been criticised for denying clients choice and control after Community Care’s personalisation survey found restrictions being placed on the use of personal budgets for items including holidays and computer equipment.

A quarter of social care professionals said service users in their area were highly restricted in using personal budgets for holidays, while 13% said the same was true for computer equipment and attending sporting or entertainment events. One in 10 said their service users were highly restricted in spending personal budgets on taking part in sports or exercise.

“Blanket restrictions are not in the spirit of personalisation,” said care services minister Paul Burstow. “Everyone has different circumstances, which is why decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis.”

While such restrictions are associated with councils’ desire to control costs, Burstow added: “Many of the creative uses of personal budgets can benefit ­carers as much as users and may also lead to savings through reducing the need for expensive respite care.”

His concerns were echoed by the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) partnership, the coalition charged with supporting the delivery of personalisation.

“It is understandable councils are looking to carefully manage resources when their bottom lines are tight,” said partnership co-chairs Miranda Wixon and Richard Jones. “However, they need to be very careful to avoid rigid rules that limit the potential efficiencies that result from people controlling and choosing supports that are right for them.”

They said that similar concerns have been highlighted in a separate survey of service users and carers, due to be published soon, and that TLAP would be “paying this issue particular attention in the coming months”.

“Social workers may have to make the case that when restrictions apply it results in increasing need, but they are under enormous pressure around that because councils are having to make the savings,” said Helga Pile, national officer for social care at Unison, which commissioned the survey.

However, John Nawrockyi, chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ physical disabilities network, said councils had to strike a balance between individual choice and use of public funds. “It’s about ensuring that the way the money is spent supports the person’s care plan,” he said.

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