The government’s roll-out of personal budgets could be scuppered by cuts, a lack of support for users and the collapse of traditional services, campaigners have warned.
Although charities broadly welcomed yesterday’s government adult social care vision, which set a target of rolling out personal budgets to all users by April 2013, some raised concerns about the impact of the plan.
Carers UK chief executive Imelda Redmond warned that the speed of the shift from the current position – with 25% of users on personal budgets – could decimate traditional services such as day centres. In several areas, day centres have closed as their users have been switched to personal budgets.
“It is vital that the personalisation agenda in social care does not sweep away traditional services that are working well, as getting a personal budget and managing your own care package may not be the answer for everyone,” said Redmond.
Independent Age said that the government’s vision would require substantial service redesign, putting “substantial pressure” on councils at a time when their funding from government is being cut by 28% in real terms from 2011-15 – though this will be partially offset by an extra £1bn a year for adult care.
“We fear that not all of them will be up to the task and that the vision will be lost for want of the cash,” said director of policy Simon Bottery. He said councils should not see personal budgets as a way of saving money and said service users needed adequate support to make the most of the market in care.
This point was echoed by the Mental Health Foundation in relation people with mental health problems and those who lack mental capacity, groups where personal budget take-up is low.
“In such cases, allocating a personal budget without appropriate support from an advocate, for example, is a pointless exercise,” said Toby Williamson, the foundation’s head of development and later life.
There were also warnings about the government’s stipulation that, in most cases, personal budgets should be taken as direct payments, managed by users or their families, rather than virtual budgets managed by councils.
The RNID’s managing director of services, Louise Pritchard, said: “It is important that individuals are given a real choice about their options because some people may prefer their council to manage their budget. Direct payments should not be adopted as the default position.”
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