Chief Executive's Christmas message

This past year has been a very challenging one for many of us. This may be because you've been desperately trying to make the best use of limited resources in your organisation or you're an individual that has faced worry and uncertainty over the provision of your own or a family member's care and support.

I would like nothing more than to say we're through the worst and that 2012 will bring better things for us all but we unfortunately know that this isn't the case. However I truly believe that with challenges there are also opportunities and we have seen good change happen within the sector including the increase in the number of people receiving a personal budget. In times of adversity, what's important is that we all pull together and nothing quite demonstrates this like the power of the Partners in Policymaking courses and the People Power network. I have been heartened over these past 12 months with how this group of very special individuals has supported many people through information, advice and friendship.

In Control's work over the past year has focused on creating a real shift in power from the state to people and their families. In 2011, we received more than 2,000 enquiries from people looking for advice and information in relation to health and social care and this is something that we intend to continue and sustain.

The expansion of self-directed support into others areas of the sector is progressing and this includes children's services. Through our Children's programme we have now worked with 45 children's services across the country to support them to introduce personal budgets for children, young people and families. Likewise in health, there have been huge developments, particularly with the announcement that personal health budgets are to be rolled out from October 2012 and everyone receiving continuing healthcare will have the right to ask for a personal health budget by 2014. This is a significant challenge and although the Department of Health (DH) pilots are underway there is still a considerable amount of progress to be made before health organisations are in a position for roll out. Over the past three years we have been working closely with health organisations and we are also a strategic partner in the DH's pilots and a member of its advisory board. We are also just about to embark on a large piece of work in the North West focusing on delivering personal health budgets for people receiving continuing health care. Work to introduce self-directed support for the homeless and ex-offenders is also developing well.

In June, in partnership with Lancaster University and Think Local, Act Personal, we published the largest national survey to date of the experiences of personal budget recipients. This survey of more than 2,000 people revealed that for a majority, personal budgets have a positive impact on people's lives, particularly when it is via a direct payment. However the survey also found that personal budgets will only make a difference if implemented by councils in the right way and if it does not simply become a 'box-ticking' exercise. The report, which uses In Control's POET (Personal Outcomes Evaluation Tool) shows a big gap in the progress that authorities are making, and people's experiences of the processes and support they receive varies widely. Other recent research has highlighted that use of direct payments, despite proven success, has stalled with more councils opting for managed budgets. There is much more to be done here to ensure authentic choice and control for people.

Last month, we also published our Community Fund Holding paper which sets out a new approach to put public money in the hands of communities to achieve an agreed set of outcomes and we are now starting to work with a number of local authorities and organisations to test out the approach.

Organisations, particularly service providers, continue to show positivity towards personalising their services and this is demonstrated through our ever-expanding Stay Connected network which helps organisations to keep in touch with the latest developments in personalisation as well as practical information and support, including regular webinars.

For In Control, the coming year looks set to bring further developments and successes in the expansion of self-directed support and we will continue to advocate for true personalisation and provide evidence that this is the road to efficiency as well as effectiveness.  We also look forward to continuing our partnership with the sector-led, Think Local, Act Personal and helping to encourage the adoption of its new tool - Making it Real which is a new citizen-led approach for councils and organisations to check their progress with personalisation and community-based support.

In the current climate, it is easy to just focus on the challenges that lie ahead but it is really important to remain positive and to look for solutions to overcome these problems. A great deal has been achieved over the past few years and more than 300,000 people now have a personal budget and more choice and control over how they live their lives. Yes, of course there is still a great deal more to be done but focusing on what isn't working and why not, isn't the only answer. We need to look at what does work, why, what we can learn from this and how we can replicate it. We then need to work very hard to share this knowledge so effective change happens everywhere, for the majority, not the minority.

So as we enter 2012, In Control will continue to work hard to ensure that we bring about further positive change and that those at risk of being excluded have the support they need to live a good life and to make a valued contribution to society.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.

Julie Stansfield, Chief Executive

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Last Updated : 16 December 2011. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.