Cuts hurting personalisation, warn social workers

Budget reductions are limiting chioce for users and resources are not allocated in line with need , say professionals responding to Community Care's annual survey on personalisation.

86% of professionals say cuts will impede progress with personalisation
86% of professionals say cuts will impede progress with personalisation

Cuts and ineffective resource allocation systems are hurting the implementation of personal budgets and limiting choice for users, Community Care’s annual personalisation survey has found. With the government’s deficit reduction programme into its second year, 86% of social care professionals polled said cuts would impede the progress of personalisation in their area, up from 83% last year.

Half said personal budgets were not of sufficient value to help people meet their needs, while 62% said resource allocation systems did not allocate resources to people in line with their needs, up from 47% last year. Respondents warned that resource constraints were limiting choice for users, contrary to personalisation’s ambitions.

“Budgetary restrictions and lack of commissioning development has meant there are very few options to offer service users,” said one professional. “Therefore [personal budgets] have really meant that service users have the same options as previously, with different administrative processes applied. There is pressure to use the reassessment programme to identify and make cuts in care if possible.”

[Read full coverage of the 2012 personalisation survey on our special report page]

A quarter of those polled said personal budgets had decreased in value in the past year following reviews, compared with 15% who said they had increased. And just 11% said budgets were uprated each year in line with rises in the cost of living, compared with 40% who said they were not.

“That is shocking and seriously worrying,” said Peter Beresford, chair of user network Shaping Our Lives. “The claims [made for personal budgets] were that if there were cost of living increases  [they] could accommodate them.”

“As more and more people get personal budgets, they must not become an excuse for making cuts by the backdoor,” warned Owen Davies, policy and public affairs adviser for The College of Social Work, which co-sponsored the survey with Unison.

With just 16% of respondents saying that their resource allocation system was easy for service users and carers to understand, Unison’s national officer for social care, Helga Pile, warned: “The resource allocation system was supposed to be transparent but it’s anything but. There is a growing view that this is a cover for implementing cuts but not doing so in an above board way.”

In response, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said councils had sought to protect frontline services from cuts. Its latest budget survey found 80% of council budget reductions to adult care in 2012-13 were coming through service redesign and efficiency savings, rather than service cuts or increased charges.

Community Care polled 272 social care professionals employed by councils in England. Read full results of the survey.

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