Readers’ letters, 30 July 2009

Flawed talk on personal budgets

The article (“How effective so far have personal budgets been?“, 2 July, p32, reported on five studies of their implementation, and noted that “the support plans that are implemented often achieve savings against the indicative costs”. It gave examples of very substantial reductions in the actual spend as against the sum calculated by the Resource Allocation System (RAS).

We should be very concerned if this is represented as a successful aspect of personal budgets. It is not: it is a sign of a fundamental flaw.

The credibility of the transformation to personalised self-directed support (SDS) depends solely on the genuine transfer of control from council to customer. This transfer is effected by basing the available funding on the level of need ascertained by an assessment – not on the subsequent choices about how the money is to be used, which should rest with the customer.

Where funding is reduced between the RAS and the allocation, it suggests that council staff are vetting customers’ proposed spending plans and withholding approval (and money) for bits they disagree with. They are continuing to exercise the control they claim to be handing over. Councils have to ration money and the tool for doing so with personal budgets is a reliable and transparent RAS that ties funding to need.

If a requirement to submit support plans for approval led to secondary rationing based on purchasing decisions, the whole SDS system would come down like a house of cards.

Barry Ruffell, former direct payments officer, West Sussex Council

Egotistic authors miss the point

I was intrigued by the reaction of some children’s authors to the news that they too would be subject to the Vetting and Barring Scheme in relation to work they may undertake with children in schools.

Words such as “insulting” and “outraged” were used in media coverage, although not all children’s authors shared the views of the group in the spotlight, recognising that they should not be immune to a system that safeguards children.

It is not acceptable for any group of people to think that they are above scrutiny.

People with unhealthy interests in children come from all walks of life, including the world of celebrity. Moreover, in our society, many celebrities have an “elevated” status which makes the imbalance of power between themselves and their audience even greater than the usual power differential that exists between an adult and a child.

Many of the authors who took issue with the Vetting and Barring Scheme had missed the point: it is not about protecting fragile egos; it is about protecting children.

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer England, BASW

A desperate policy for the disabled

Another initiative has been announced – Valuing Employment Now – based on the contention that “a home and a job are the core foundations of normal everyday life which the majority of people take for granted. The government wants to extend this expectation and aspiration to the most excluded.”

Alarmingly, the focus is not on mildly disadvantaged people, but those with moderate, severe learning and complex disabilities. This, despite the fact that twice already in the past 50 years this strategy has failed spectacularly and resulted in a regression in day-service provision for severely disadvantaged people

Reverting to a one-size-fits-all solution with employment as a major component for people with severe learning disabilities is not progressive – it is a policy of desperation.

For all the talk to the contrary, personal needs and choices concerning day and residential care are becoming secondary to the compulsion to get all people regardless of the complexity or severity of their learning disabilities into paid jobs and separate housing locations.

Charles Henley, Bournemouth

It’s business as usual at Scie

The headline “Scie future in doubt as new body mooted” ( was surprising because no one else, including the Department of Health, is suggesting that our future is in doubt.

The green paper on care and support suggested that Scie could become the government’s advisory body on social care.

Community Care phoned us for a comment, which we supplied, saying that it is “business as usual” for Scie, but that also we would be well positioned to take on any additional advisory responsibilities.

So, to reassure social care staff, carers and service users: we will continue to offer our support and will take a full part in the discussions on the green paper.

Julie Jones, chief executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence

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