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Getting underneath the skin of personal budgets

Sue Bott, our trustee and director of policy and development at Disability Rights UK writes this guest blog post for us on the launch of the Third National Personal Budget Survey.

It's that time of year again for publishing surveys on personal budgets, just in time for having a good chat over the results at the forthcoming National Children's and Adult Social Care Conference.  So what will the great and the good be saying this year?

They will be talking about the number of people who have managed to find their way through the eligibility maze and get support who now have a personal budget, some 372,044 people at 31st March this year.  Some of them, depending on their point of view, will be delighted that 24% take their personal budget as a direct payment.  Apparently, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services annual personal budget survey, there has been good progress across all areas except mental health and sensory impairment.  I suspect there is still a massive cultural shift needed in mental health and as for sensory impairment well do any of us still get any support?

So from a statistical point of view it all looks reasonably promising but what about what really matters - people's actual experiences?   The reason people like me are so passionate about personal budgets and direct payments is because we believe they actually improve people's lives.  We're not so interested in the numbers. After all we are not talking about changing a system to another system just so that we can produce lots of policy documents, change forms and design new software.  This new system has to make a real difference to people's quality of life.

So what makes even more interesting reading, and I hope will receive just as much attention, if not more, at the forthcoming conference, is the survey of people's experiences with personal budgets that is being jointly published by In Control, Think Local Act Personal and Lancaster University using the Personal Outcomes Evaluation Tool survey (POET).  So there we find  more than 80% of people found that personal budgets made things better or a lot better when it comes to dignity in support and quality of life.  People who used their personal budget for community based support or employing their own personal assistance rather than for traditional services were more likely to report better outcomes.  People achieved better outcomes if they received support in putting their personal budget together.  What is also interesting is that these things hold true whatever your personal background for example age, gender or ethnicity.

It is easy to lose sight of the people in these days of business systems and management speak.  The POET survey reminds us that personal budgets is not just about system change but outcome change for real people with real lives to lead.  Following the Minister, Norman Lamb's support for the POET survey, many more local authorities have taken part this year.  I hope more will get engaged in future years.  Of course the major blight in people's lives is the lack of resources and the fact that so many people who need support to be full and active citizens are getting nothing.  That is a fact that we should continue to scream from the rooftops but at the same time let's improve the outcomes for people who are able to get support.  The POET survey demonstrates what works from the perspective of people who have personal budgets.  I hope professionals in health and social care will take note and act on its findings.

Read our other POET blog posts here.

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Last Updated : 28 October 2014. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.