Personal budgets pioneer slams coalition’s lack of targets

The government has failed on personalisation due to budget cuts and the removal of targets for councils to make improvements, Simon Duffy (pictured), a pioneer of personal budgets has warned.

The government has failed on personalisation due to budget cuts and the removal of targets for councils to make improvements, a pioneer of personal budgets has warned.

Speaking at the end of the three-year Putting People First programme to personalise care, Simon Duffy said he feared for older and disabled service users and saw little possibility of true choice and control in some areas.

Duffy, who developed the concept of personal or individual budgets as director of In Control from 2003 to 2009, was speaking at the launch of his think-tank, the Centre for Welfare Reform, last week.

The previous government invested £520m from 2008 to 2011 in Putting People First, which was backed by a range of targets, including having 30% of users on personal budgets.

A Department of Health spokesperson stressed the government’s commitment to personalisation, citing its vision for adult social care, which said councils should have all users on personal budgets by 2013 and stated that personalisation would be at the heart of a new outcomes framework for social care.

However, the department has ditched the Care Quality Commission’s annual assessment of council adult care and national targets, making councils more responsible for their own performance.

Duffy said: “I don’t understand how the government’s objectives will be fulfilled when they take away the targets and put in place nothing. The government has failed on personalisation. I think they don’t have a strategy that makes any sense.”

In a speech earlier this month, Duffy said he had heard of councils telling users how to use personal budgets and reducing choice by commissioning fewer providers, echoing concerns raised by social workers on Community Care’s online forum, CareSpace.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised that choice and control is not being extended to service users with dementia, following the end of a two-year project on the issue, Dementia Choices, run by the Mental Health Foundation.

Toby Williamson, the charity’s head of development and later life, said it experienced difficulties in engaging councils on extending personal budgets to the client group.

“We know that some local authorities claim that they’ve got all their service users on to personal budgets,” he said. “But what that looks like for a person with mild to moderate dementia, whether it’s true choice and control, is the real crunch question.”

Williamson also expressed concerns that many people with an early diagnosis of dementia would not qualify for support because most councils restricted eligibility for care to people with substantial or critical needs.

The project worked in four areas and found little awareness of self-directed support among people with dementia and their family carers, and that social care workers needed practical information about how personal budgets can work for the client group.

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