Councils failing to offer choice to personal budget holders

Some local authorities are still failing to offer significant levels of choice and control to personal budget holders in receipt of managed budgets, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. (Picture: Rex)

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Some local authorities are still failing to offer significant levels of choice and control to personal budget holders in receipt of managed budgets, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

Despite government calls for councils to make direct payments the preferred method of delivering personal budgets, some are giving clients personal budgets that are little more than a traditional service, while many are offering a managed budget as a default.

Richard Jones, joint president of the Think Local, Act Personal consortium, said this was causing the take-up of direct payments to “flatline”.

Adass and TLAP have now pledged to encourage councils to ensure that users experience “meaningful choice and control” alongside good advice and support.

Adass’s survey showed that most councils hit a target of 30% of users and carers on personal budgets by April 2011. But two-thirds of personal budgets were managed by local authorities, as opposed to given to service users as a direct payment.

In addition, managed personal budgets, rather than direct payments, accounted for almost all of the 170,000 extra personal budgets arranged in 2010-11.

Adass received responses from 132 of England’s 153 local authorities with adult social care responsibilities.

The news comes as questions are asked about the future of personalisation in the face of budget cuts and the bureaucracy that some councils have applied to the implementation process.

A Community Care and Unison survey of social care professionals found just 41% believed personalisation would benefit service users in the long term, compared with 67% responding to a similar survey in 2009.

Jones said the “flatlining” of direct payments nationally would need to be addressed “because the evidence in relation to outcomes and efficiencies is that direct payments deliver a better response to people”.

He said TLAP would work with councils and social work staff to ensure they understood the offers available in their area.

Adass president Peter Hay acknowledged some councils were offering the same menu of services as before, while others were “genuinely trying to build confidence towards choice and control” within a managed budget.

Julie Stansfield, chief executive of In Control – the social enterprise directing self-directed support – said: “It is critical that local authorities remember that personal budgets will only deliver good outcomes for people if they truly offer choice and control and do not simply become a ‘box ticking’ exercise.”

Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “Local authorities need to do much more to ensure that as many people as possible are receiving their personal budgets as a direct payment.”

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