Limited uptake of personal budgets in Scottish pilot areas

Just 150 new personal budget arrangements were set up in three Scottish self-directed support pilot sites over the past two years despite “significant investment from the Scottish government”, a study has found.

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Just 150 new personal budget arrangements were set up in three Scottish self-directed support pilot sites over the past two years despite “significant investment from the Scottish government”, a study has found.

The report into the three test areas – Dumfries & Galloway, Glasgow and Highland – found that while self-directed support did work well for those with learning disabilities, significant time and investment would be required for self-directed support to take off across the country and for all groups.

One issue cited by the report was that self-directed support was set up in parallel to existing systems of allocating support to people, creating the impression that it was distinct from direct payments, leading to limited appeal and creating the danger of duplication and confusion.
“While this strategy worked well for the test sites in relation to supporting the small numbers of service users and staff involved with new systems, it may have limited the extent of systemic change,” said the report.

Implementation of personalisation has been slow in Scotland. Last year, the Scottish government pledged to make self-directed support central to social care. However in many areas of Scotland direct payments are perceived to be failing to deliver choice, flexibility or control, while self-directed support has been implemented inconsistently and in many areas had not enlisted service user and carer organisation input.

The three pilots, which ran from January 2009 to March 2011, were tasked by the Scottish government to address themes of leadership and training; cutting ‘red tape'; and the need to provide up-front investment to set up self-directed support systems. The report found leadership in all three sites was critical, but that all three experienced an increase in bureaucracy linked with redesigning systems for assessment and resource allocation.

The study also found that groups other than those with learning disabilities, such as those with mental health problems, from black or minority ethnic groups, older people, those with addictions or homeless people saw no improved access to self-directed support.

The report added: “Clearly involvement of service user and carer organisations and investment in the necessary support infrastructures are essential as well as continued availability of funding for the care packages themselves.”

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