Personal budgets getting on the train? What do the latest ADASS numbers mean for the progress of self-directed support?

Blog post on the latest personal budget numbers.

Exactly a year ago I wrote a blog called Personal Budgets - changing trains? In that piece I worried that although personal budget numbers were rising, direct payments growth had stalled. I was concerned that we were on a "train" leading us towards the great majority of personal budgets being council managed. This was a worry not particularly because it was counter to policy but more because the Think Local, Act Personal partnership commissioned National Personal Budgets Survey, using the POET tool showed that many people were getting the best outcomes when taking their personal budgets as direct payments. Beyond the numbers and delivery mechanisms, the survey also pointed up continuing problems with bureaucracy, delays, inflexibility etc. in personal budget delivery.

So what can we glean from the current numbers?

There has been a big overall increase in personal budgets, though still with significant variability - Given the scale of increases a fair number of councils have a chance of getting close to the 2013 goal.

What about the direct payment/managed personal budgetss balance? The direct payment numbers have remained "steady" but with the big overall personal budget increase this means the percentage of personal budgets taken as direct payments has now gone down with managed personal budgets forming a growing percentage. This fits with my prediction from last year. Much more encouragingly, however, the spend on direct paymentss has gone up very sharply - by 30%. This suggests a lot less small value direct paymentss and that many more of the substantial packages of support taken are via direct payments - good news I think.

What does all this mean going forward?

The picture on direct payments is mixed but the trend is now clearly established towards a significant majority of personal budghets being allocated in the managed form. Many will worry about this. In Control has regular correspondence from people concerned that in too many cases this means business as usual - many argue this is the system perverting the true purpose of enhancing self-direction. Systems are indeed good at defending themselves against radical, counter cultural initiatives and we do see a lot of superficial, surface change. However this is not universal and doesn't have to be the case.

We are clearly going to have to see work on at least two fronts. A renewed effort is needed to bring the benefits of direct payments to larger numbers and especially those groups that seem to be almost structurally excluded. We need to learn from the best direct payment strategies especially for people often not well included and in those places that need to raise their game.  Secondly, we need to extend best practice in managed personal budgets and keep checking that these do offer choice and control. It is a real worry to us that so far we only see small numbers of councils doing real time outcomes evaluation and improving strategies based on this. On the bright side ADASS in their survey letter to councils encouraged this and we are going to be working with at least 20 more councils using the POET outcomes evaluation tool this year.

Spreading positive practice

There are positive rays of hope in developing practice in some of these areas - Think Local, Act Personal will continue to gather and share these via their new National Self Directed Support Forum and the Making it Real markers are being increasingly signed up to by councils - promoting a focus on the things that matter with personal budgets.

In Control has undertaken work with North West councils in the three areas of managed personal budgets, reducing process and workforce development for self-direction and will publish learning and good practice in the early autumn. Groundswell Partnership has done recent helpful work in the areas of Individual Service Funds, support planning and direct payments support.

A key issue however is spreading good practice across councils. There is an opportunity here via the developing Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care initiative. At a regional level councils will be undertaking peer led reviews and providing peer support in adult social care. The good practice being identified can be spread via this regional activity and using links to national Think Local, Act Personal and regional programmes via In Control and others. For example, in the North West currently, and in Yorkshire and Humber shortly, In Control will be working with ADASS and other partners on improving personal budget strategies as part of regional Think Local, Act Personal programmes - we can use the regional data from the ADASS survey and self-assessment using the Making it Real markers to identify what improvements are needed, what good practice exists in those areas, which councils are best placed to help others in these areas and then facilitate that support.

Please get in touch if you want to know more about any of the developments mentioned above or if In Control can help you with your local journey to self-direction.

Martin Routledge

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Last Updated : 12 July 2012. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.