In Control: Personal budgets delivering improved outcomes

Personal budgets have improved the lives of most users but fewer clients have true control over their care and support than official estimates indicate, In Control said today.

The charity, which has pioneered personalisation, said 68% of users reported their lives had improved since they started using a personal budget (PB) and 58% said they were spending more time with people they wanted to.

In Control surveyed more than 500 users between 2005 and 2009, mostly from England.

The study, released at In Control’s annual Big Event conference today, is the latest summary of its work to promote, test and evaluate the use of self-directed support in the UK, mainly covering 2008-9.

Discrepancies in personal budget totals

The charity said 46,000 people were using PBs in the 79 local authorities in England for which it had information. Though this represents about half the councils, its findings account for less than a quarter of the 200,000 people whom the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimates are now on PBs.

In Control said this was because its definition of PBs did not include all people receiving direct payments because some of this group had excessive restrictions placed by councils on how they spent their cash.

According to In Control’s definition, personal budgets are held by people who:

● know how much money they can have for their support, whether they receive it as cash (a direct payment) or not.

● can spend the money in ways and at times that make sense to them.

● know what outcomes must be achieved with the money.

2011 target

All councils in England are being asked to have 30% of their service users on PBs by April 2011, including all those receiving direct payments.

John Waters, In Control’s research and evaluation lead, said: “We took a decision to use that definition because we wanted local authorities to examine their approach to direct payments. Some have placed severe restrictions on the money they give.”

However, national director for social care transformation Jeff Jerome, who is working through Adass to help councils implement personalisation, said In Control’s definition was “very narrow” and understated progress.

Adass is surveying all councils to gauge progress on personalisation, including PB levels. Jerome said it was expecting a high response rate and the survey would test whether its prediction of 200,000 PBs by now had been met.

Adass survey on progress

However, he said councils were being asked to only include people who were given personal budgets for ongoing care and support in their survey response, rather than those given PBs to fund one-off or short-term items of expenditure.

Such one-offs are counted in the government’s national performance indicator for PBs, but Jerome said he was looking for this to be revised.

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