Personal budgets for older people to be reviewed

Think Local Act Personal probe to address concerns that personal budgets are not working as well for older people as other groups.

A review will be held into how personal budgets can work better for older people in response to calls from adult directors to examine barriers to take-up and successful outcomes for the group.

The review will be led by Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), the sector coalition set up to help implement personalisation, and will seek to find solutions to the problems afflicting personal budgets for older people, drawing on existing good practice.

The current personal budgets system was not flexible enough to give older people choice and control over their care and address safeguarding concerns, said the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services in a report in March that called for such a review to be undertaken.

Issues cited by Adass included:-

  • People with dementia not being offered personal budgets.
  • Low rates of direct payment take-up among older people, with many taking council-managed personal budgets instead.
  • Concerns over safeguarding issues and the employment responsibilities faced by older people when they employ personal assistants.

TLAP programme manager Martin Routledge said the review would look at how older people who wanted them could access direct payments, while also ensuring council-managed personal budgets provided genuine choice and control for those who did not want a cash payment.

The TLAP inquiry, conducted with the Social Care Institute for Excellence, will start with a review of existing data and research on the issue, identifying barriers to personal budget take-up and good outcomes. This will run from June to September.

Then, from October 2012 to March 2013, the review team will start working with a range of organisations to explore and test good practice in making personal budgets work for older people. Good practice measures will be incorporated into peer reviews of local authorities, conducted under the sector-led Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care programme. There could be a further phase of testing of good practice but this is subject to confirmation.

Adass also raised concerns about the government’s goal of having all eligible service users on personal budgets by April 2013, saying that this had led councils to focus on meeting this timetable rather than ensuring genuine choice and control for personal budget holders.

However, the government is expected to confirm that it will retain the target in its forthcoming White Paper on social care.

“Our project in itself won’t solve the challenge [of meeting the April 2013 goal],” said Routledge. “What we will be able to do is identify some promising approaches that we can circulate [to councils]. We aren’t just interested in numbers [of older people on personal budgets].”

Mithran Samuel is Community Care’s adults editor.

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