Personal budgets: users to be charged percentage of cost

Councils will be allowed to pass on a percentage of the cost of services to personal budget users, under draft guidance issued by the Department of Health.

The rate, which will be fixed locally, will be applied to all personal budgets in all parts of non-residential care. Users will be expected to pay the contribution subject to a financial means assessment.

The Fairer Contributions Guidance was developed in consultation with councils, service users, individual budget pilot sites and other government departments.

Impact on service users

Officials cited a study of nine councils that looked at what would happen to service users when the local authority applied a percentage to a whole personal budget.

It found that contributions went up for those who received free or low-cost services, but stayed the same in councils that had already passed on the full cost of services. The guidance recommends capping any increases in weekly contributions to ensure a gradual transition for service users.

Putting People First

The guidance comes as councils across England roll out a system of personal budgets by 2011, using the £520m social care reform grant.

Personal budgets, which are allocated to service users according to an assessment of their needs, are a key part of the government’s Putting People First initiative.

Professionals and organisations are invited to respond to the consultation by 19 April.

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