There is widespread ignorance among social care service users about personal budgets, according to research published today by the think-tank Demos.
A survey of 269 users across four local authority areas - Cheshire East, Hull, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire - found 62% knew nothing at all and 20% very little about personal budgets, despite their centrality to current social care policy in England.
The report said councils faced a big task in helping prepare users for the changes being initiated under the government's personalisation agenda and ensuring providers were meeting their needs.
Commissioned by providers
The Demos research, conducted with the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University, was commissioned by care providers Barchester Healthcare and Castlebeck as part of their work to adapt to the personalisation agenda.
Personal budgets involve councils allocating users a sum of money based on their care needs and users electing to take this as a cash payment or leave it to the local authority to manage while retaining choice over their care and support.
The Department of Health wants 30% of users on personal budgets by 2011.
Ignorance greater among older people
The research, carried out from December 2008-July 2009, found that ignorance about personal budgets was greater among older people, with 92% knowing nothing or very little.
Just five people surveyed held a personal budget.
Nevertheless 45% of respondents said they would change at least some things about their care package if they had a personal budget.
Strong support for day centres
When asked what support services people would want if they held a personal budget, 31% of the 177 people to answer this question said they would spend their money on day centres, with 19% saying education and training.
There was also strong demand for personal assistants, who are hired directly by service users to provide them with support, with 44% saying they would want a PA if they had a personal budget.
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