Help the Aged: Personalisation must not be delivered on the cheap

The roll-out of personal budgets in England will increase the costs of care, Help the Aged said today in a report drawing on evidence from four other European countries.

The charity said the experience of France, Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands in introducing personalised care systems showed that service users would lose out if the government and councils saw it as a way of cutting costs.

In France, Germany and the Netherlands governments underestimated the level of demand for care as people who had previously been hidden to services accessed provision.

As governments did not restrict access to care to people with the least means or the greatest needs, as in England, they had to increase spending.

Sacrificed holiday

In France and Germany, both of which fund care through a social insurance system, people had sacrificed a day’s national holiday to increase expenditure on care. But in both countries and the Netherlands, families and individuals have had to top-up state payments to ensure adequate care.

The government has provided English councils with £520m from 2008-11 to roll-out personalisation, including personal budgets, under the Putting People First programme

However, the funding – which amounts to just over £1m per authority per year – is designed to change systems not cope with increased demand.

Substantial investment

The evaluation of the 13 individual budget pilots, published last October, concluded that while the average cost of IBs and conventional care services were similar, a nationwide roll-out of personalisation would require substantial investment.

Help the Aged’s senior social care policy officer, Elizabeth Feltoe, said: “Other European countries have already made the necessary investment and reorganised their social care systems. The UK is in a perfect position to see what works and cherry pick the best options for our older people, one of which will be personal budgets.

“If however politicians choose to delay the reform or refuse to make the hard decisions, British older people will be at greater risk than ever before.”

Scie research

Meanwhile, the Social Care Institute for Excellence has published a briefing on the latest research on implementing individual budgets in the UK and abroad.

Its key findings include:-

  • Skilled support arrangements are needed to ensure successful implementation for users, carers and families.
  • Brokerage and independent support is needed and research suggests this is more successful when it is independent of local councils.
  • Older people and people with complex needs may need more time and support to get the most out of IBs.
  • Central government leadership is always vital.
  • All schemes have taken time to embed and have needed strong leadership and investment in training and support for frontline staff.
  • Reliable evidence on the long-term cost implications of IBs is not yet available and this needs urgent attention.

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