Disability Benefit Danger
If it helps care services minister Ivan Lewis make his case in government to combine different funding streams into individual budgets, the Local Government Association’s report, Our Lives, Our Choices, is well timed.
The LGA suggests pooling social security benefits with local social care resources to create a single funding pot for older and disabled people, replacing the current hotchpotch of funds and services. Lewis and the more evangelising supporters of individual budgets would probably endorse this idea.
But there is a worrying precedent. When the last Conservative government got fed up with soaring levels of income support to pay for residential care, it gave the cash and the responsibility to councils. Benefits entitlements disappeared and local authorities were forced to ration services in line with inadequate funding settlements.
The danger is that the same would happen to disability benefit claimants, for whom the hope of an adequate individual budget would be no substitute for the right to a benefit. If benefits are channelled into individual budgets, stringent guarantees will be needed to protect the interests of service users.