103-year-old service user and carer gains personal budget

    (pictured: Locum social worker Lorraine Smith and her client Frank Whipple)

    Locum Lorraine Smith has helped add another dimension to Frank Whipple’s life by introducing him to personal budgets – at the age of 103. Amy Taylor reports

    “Previous social workers who we’ve had talked and talked and they didn’t do anything. Lorraine talks and talks and does things,” says Frank Whipple, a pensioner from London’s East End, about his social worker Lorraine Smith. At 103 years old and a carer for his 66-year-old disabled daughter Peggy, Whipple has heard more talking than most but Smith’s work to help him move onto a personal budget in May has made her stand out.

    Before meeting Smith, Whipple says he didn’t know anything about personal budgets. However, since she introduced him to the concept his quality of life has greatly improved.

    Whereas domiciliary care workers used to come to help Whipple and Peggy at their home in Poplar at fixed times of day, Whipple can now choose when the visits take place. He also uses his budget to pay for him, his care worker and Peggy to go to the pub, for meals or to local parks for three hours a week, something he would have had to have funded out of his own pocket before.

    Smith is a locum social worker at Tower Hamlets, working for agency Liquid Personnel, and was hired to increase the take up of personal budgets among older people over a set period. She says giving Whipple his whole service package, including the parts linked to his caring role, as a personal budget puts him in control of his care.

    Accessing personal budgets

    Smith was taken on after helping people with learning disabilities to access personal budgets in nearby Newham for a year beforehand.

    She says that while aspects of personal budgets, such as self-assessment, can be difficult for some social workers to digest initially, her work in Tower Hamlets is going well.

    “Now social workers are having to be creative with service users and that’s invigorating. It’s been really positive and our team met its target for getting people onto personal budgets for November,” she says.

    Whipple says he likes to be out and the trips his personal budget pays for are important to him. After retiring, aged 67, to look after Peggy when his wife died, he quickly became prominent in the community and was chair of the Tower Hamlets branch of learning disability charity Mencap for 10 years.

    He still has a strong interest in politics and feels it’s important for older people to help shape their local area.

    “Unfortunately, older people have been written off for quite a considerable time now. It’s partly their own fault because they don’t take any interest in life. They are prepared to accept anything that comes along,” he says.

    Whipple used his personal budget to pay for him and Peggy to go on holiday to Eastbourne in the summer. “We had wheelchairs and we were wheeled around everywhere,” he says. Smith says Whipple was able to use his entitlement for Peggy’s respite care to pay for a holiday which otherwise would have been impossible. A stay in residential care would have been the only offer on the table.

    Support plans outlining people’s histories and specific needs are another feature of personal budgets. For Whipple his plan details his birth in Ireland in 1907, his love of debating, how he worked as a tailor’s presser for more than 40 years and his time as a war reserve police officer during the Blitz. Smith explains how the plans help professionals to see their clients as more than simply names on a list.

    Back to grassroots social work

    “They give people a story and a narrative rather than carers just going in and providing a service. Before [the carers] wouldn’t have had that. It’s going back to grassroots social work and that’s how I got to spend a little bit more time getting to know Frank,” she says.

    Smith’s work has attracted attention across adult services in the borough and she is often asked for advice. Liquid Personnel says it is “incredibly proud of her”. Despite her achievements Smith only qualified in 2008 having previously worked as an assistant social worker for more than five years and in the social care sector since she was 17.

    She says working with Whipple has been inspiring and that he demonstrates a person’s age should not be seen as a barrier to them reaping the benefits of personalisation.

    For Whipple, who says that at the age of 90 “he could do everything”, older people who are his juniors have got a lot live for.

    “There’s a lot of good years to go provided that you know how to use them,” he says.

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