Personal budgets: a flawed approach

Personal budgets: a flawed approach

Leading academics, including Disability Now writer Professor Peter Beresford, has urged the government to abandon its current approach to personal budgets which they say is based on skewed data.

New research has found that contrary to popular belief, the system of self-directed support to bring about personalisation is costly and is failing to meet the needs of disabled people.

Under the system of self-directed support, users are awarded personal budgets to buy in the support services they need.

The consensus among its advocates is that it promotes independence. The government favours the system on the grounds that it does so at a cheaper cost.

The Health Secretary Norman Lamb, has set a target for a 70 per cent take-up of personal budgets in 2013.

But two new reports have questioned the evidence for these claims because it relies on the results of a survey containing a disproportionately high number of people who received their personal budget in the form of a direct payment and whose improved outcomes came about because they received resources that could be worth up to 80 per cent more than users whose support was arranged by the local authority.

Peter Beresford, Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University, who co-authored the two reports, said: “The vision of people having more choice and more control over their support remains right and relevant. But it is time that government stopped listening to the people who advocate this approach to self-directed support which is plainly not working. It is based on a consumerist, individualistic view of how to change public services.”

He said that rather than cutting older and disabled people free, the government should instead create a genuine partnership between them and society.

The reports also found that councils do not trust the computer-based formula which decides the level of a user’s personal budget and are continuing to make awards on a case by case basis.

The system, according to the reports, could be costing as much as an additional half a billion pounds each year.

Colin Slasberg, Independent Consultant, Former Assistant Director of Social Services and the co-author of the two reports said: “The new care and support bill provides a perfect opportunity to leave behind what has failed, and create a new system that can deliver on the vision. It is perfectly possible to make the case by case decision making process fair, sensible, and allow choice of service.”

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