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