Lamb scraps 100% personal budgets target

Care minister says councils must have 70% of service users on personal budgets by April 2013, ditching 100% ambition.

Pic Credit: Rex Features

 

Why personal budgets target was dropped

The target of moving all users of council-funded care in the community on to personal budgets, preferably direct payments, by April 2013 was set in the government’s November 2010 social care vision.

Since then, personal budget rates have risen from about a quarter to 52% of service users, as of April 2012.

However, most of this increase was in the form of personal budgets managed by councils, rather than direct payments given to individuals as cash. This led to suggestions that some councils, influenced by the target, were simply allocating individuals sums of money, registering these as personal budgets, but not providing them with genuine choice and control over their care.

In a paper on older people’s care in March 2012, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services explicitly questioned the wisdom of the target, saying personal budgets were being “artificially driven by the timetable over and above ensuring that real choice and control is delivered”.

It warned that many older people, particularly those with dementia, were anxious about taking personal budgets, and it would be wrong to push them on to personal budgets simply to meet the April 2013 target.

Adass’s intervention perhaps did more than anything to undermine the credibility of the target, as it came from an organisation that had long championed councils’ progress on personal budgets take-up and had taken a tough line on authorities with low rates.

 

The government has scrapped its target for councils to move all service users in the community on to personal budgets by April 2013, care minister Norman Lamb announced today.

Lamb said he had agreed a new target of having 70% of users on personal budgets by the same date, following talks with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

Lamb said personal budgets were not suitable for everyone, but stressed that the 70% target was a staging post and should not be seen as a ceiling.

His announcement, at the National Children and Adult Services Conference, was strongly welcomed by Adass president Sarah Pickup.

She said that it would mean councils could stop “chasing a number” and focus on outcomes.

Lamb also issued a strong personal commitment to implementing the Dilnot commission’s proposals of a cap on the care costs faced by individuals.

“We must do Dilnot, and soon”, he said, but did not specify details on how the government would do so. Significant questions remain over the level of the cap, whether it would be universal or voluntary, and when it would be implemented.

Lamb also said he recognised the funding pressures local authorities were under in adult social care, without signalling how social care would fare in the next government spending review, due next year.

He said that in future much better use would have to be made of the combined resource of health and adult social care to manage funding pressures and improve care.

Lamb also lavished praise on the social care workforce, including social workers, in his speech.

He also appeared to encourage councils to take out corporate membership of the College of Social Work, welcoming the recent decision of family courts body Cafcass to do so.

Corporate membership provides all of an organisation’s social workers with membership of the College at reduced rates.

Further coverage from the NCAS conference

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