Almost three-quarters of English councils met the government’s target of having 70% of eligible service users and carers on personal budgets by April 2013, an Association of Directors of Adult Social Services survey has found.
Adass’s annual personal budgets survey said 73% of councils met the target, set last year by care minister Norman Lamb, while, overall, 76% of eligible adults received a personal budget in 2012-13, up from 53% in last year’s Adass survey. The 76% total is well above official figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in July, which showed 55.6% of council-funded users of community services and 59.1% of carers receiving support took a personal budget in 2012-13. This led ministers to conclude that councils generally had missed the target.
However, Adass queried this verdict at the time, saying that the official figures calculated the proportion of personal budget holders among all users of community-based services, not just those who would be eligible for a personal budget, the approach taken in the Adass survey. The definition used by the HSCIC is mandated by the Department of Health as part of its Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework.
This year’s Adass survey was answered by 126 of the 152 councils, and shows. Just 11 councils reported having less than 50% of eligible adults on personal budgets, and Adass said that this group were receiving advice and support to improve.
Direct payments lagging
The survey also found that the persistent trend of council-managed personal budgets predominating over direct payments has continued, with 30% of personal budget expenditure in 2012-13 allocated as direct payments and 70% as managed budgets. This is despite government policy – and some research evidence on outcomes – favouring direct payments over council-managed budgets.
In its response to the results, the British Association of Social Workers raised questions about the validity of council-managed budgets as vehicles for choice and control as it could mean merely nominal control for service users over the resources allocated to them. Professional officer Joe Godden also warned that personal budgets may be being used to hide cuts to provision.
“Social workers are spending a lot of time reviewing services, with the brief to make savings,” he said. “Service users are getting reduced amounts of help. It can be easier to impose cuts to personalised budgets and direct payments than traditional ways of working.”
The figures have been released as Lamb convenes a “personalisation summit” of sector leaders today to plot a way forward for the agenda to reshape social care around the choices of people receiving support. This will:
- Review progress on personalisation, examining its impact on outcomes for disabled people and carers;
- Consider challenges in making further progress, “acknowledging the difficult financial position”;
- Outline key actions that could be taken to deepen personalisation over the next two years.
The summit is due to be covered on Twitter, with hashtag #personalisation.