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
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.