Personalisation programme boosts quality of life and delivers financial savings, finds study

Introduction of individual service funds has benefited people with learning disabilities, says evaluation of south London scheme

Girl with learning disability
Credit: REX/Burger/Phanie

A personalisation programme has boosted the quality of life for adults with learning disabilities while achieving a significant saving for a local authority, an independent evaluation has found.

The programme, a joint initiative between learning disability provider Choice Support and Southwark Council, aimed to personalise community-based services by altering the funding arrangement between the two organisations.

From 2010 to 2014, a traditional ‘block’ grant of more than £6m a year was broken down into 83 individual service funds (ISFs), a sum of money calculated on the basis of a person’s needs. The ISFs were then assigned to service users along with a person-centred plan, which was based on their assessment, preferences and the support they require.

The ‘Better Lives’ evaluation, undertaken at Buckinghamshire New University, confirmed that the programme had achieved an annual ongoing saving of £1.79m at the end of its fourth year.

This was made by reducing Choice Support’s overhead costs, including revising management structure and existing staff terms and conditions, and equated to a 29.75% saving on the original contract for Southwark Council.

Quality of life

The study asked a primary carer what impact the scheme had had on service users. Carers said that 62 of the 70 participating service users had seen an improvement in their quality of life, and that for 42 individuals, quality of life had improved as a result of having an ISF. Carers said that having an ISF had increased choice for 45 and that 52 were more involved with their local communities.

The majority of individuals (50) were also reported having more control of their own finances, but, for the the remaining 20, carers either disagreed (13), were unsure (6) or did not respond (1). The report states that due to “the importance of ISFs in the programme, the fact that 20 people were judged not to have more control over their finances is worrying”.

Staff perspectives

The study also looked at the experience of support and social services staff participating in the programme. For Choice Support staff, survey responses were positive, with the majority of support staff agreeing they had been well-informed and sufficiently trained to implement the programme.

The views of care managers from Southwark’s adult social services were mainly comparable with Choice Support’s staff, but a significant number of respondents said they had not been given training on the programme.

Roger Ellis, David Sines and Elaine Hogard, professors at Buckinghamshire New University and authors of the evaluation, said in a joint statement: “There is no doubt that the personalisation programme can be judged a success.

“For the majority of the 70 individuals the introduction of ISFs linked with PCPs [person-centred plans] has improved their quality of life and this has been achieved with a substantial net saving over the previous block grant scheme.”

ABOUT THE EVALUATION

The personalisation programme was evaluated using a ‘trident’ method, which focuses on three main areas: outcomes, process and stakeholders perspectives. These three aspects were covered by the following questions:

  • What are the key outcomes set for the personalisation programme?
  • What are the current best practice standards for quality of life for learning disability?
  • How can these outcomes be reliably measured?
  • What processes were followed to implement the programme?
  • How can these be described and evaluated?
  • How do they relate to best practice?
  • What are the views of key stakeholders?

Data was gathered from an audit of the quality of life of 70 individuals, completed by a primary carer, and questionnaires from support and social services staff and parents, next-of-kin or friends.

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