Personal budgets - changing trains?

You'll remember Sliding Doors the film - where Gwyneth Paltrow has two different lives depending on whether she catches a certain train or not. I'm feeling a bit like that with personal budgets. We know that personal budgets done properly work better for most people than more traditional service offers (with lots of agreed caveats about making them accessible to all). The recent POET report shows that even given the frustrating and restrictive processes people are facing they still get significantly better outcomes - especially via direct payments. There is a train we could join on which we would continue to work hard to solve challenges around reducing process and improving equity, expand the availability of direct payments and make sure managed personal budgets offer authentic choice and control. The end of the journey won't be Nirvana but it will lead to many better lives than standing on the platform. We don't yet have all the answers but we can find them with a will.

I fear though that we are currently getting on another train. The recent ADASS survey showed that direct payment growth has stalled over the past year (so much for all these people being forced on to them) and all the personal budget increase has been in managed personal budgets. POET, other surveys and the now regular howls of anguish from commentators and bloggers point to extra bureaucracy and restrictions on budget use. On this train, in frustration, people start to wonder if this can be made to work - though no credible alternatives are put forward. The end of the journey for this train is not, in 2013 everyone making good use of personal budgets with most taking them as direct payments. It is 90% managed personal budgets which have not been developed to offer authentic control to their users. On this train people who should be supporting each other squabble about whose fault it is or whose responsibility it is to fix the train.

It isn't too late to change trains - let's get off this one at the next stop and all get on the right one together. What is the alternative?

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Last Updated : 24 June 2011. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.