Shortcomings must be addressed if value for money is to be
secured in the future for users of social care personal budgets
once they are extended to all eligible users by April 2013,
according to a report published today by the National Audit Office.
Most people who use personal budgets to pay for their social care
report improved wellbeing (according to In Control data). But more
needs to be done to ensure that care markets deliver a genuine
choice of services to all users, that support is available to help
them exercise choice, and that essential services relied on by
vulnerable people continue to be provided in the event of the
failure of a major provider.
Today's report demonstrates that some people are using their
personal budgets in innovative ways, such as pooling them with
others to pay jointly for a personal assistant to help with their
care needs. Most people who use a personal budget report improved
wellbeing although a small minority feel worse off. Some also
reported that they found buying care for themselves difficult.
Data in the report is from our National Personal
Budget Survey which is based on POET.
Some local authorities report that personal budgets have led to
achieving better value for money in social care, but the overall
impact on cost has not been evaluated. And, whilst there are
examples of good practice in some local authorities, such as
offering help to those with personal budgets to plan their care,
these are very localised.
Local authorities are also responsible for those that fund their
own care, if they run out of money. However, 60 per cent of local
authorities do not know how many "self-funders" there are in their
area. Few local authorities offer formal support to help prevent
people falling back on state funding. The NAO estimates that the
total cost to the taxpayer of the state having to pay for
self-funders who run out of money could rise from £0.5 billion to
£1 billion per year by 2035.
The Department of Health is responsible for overall social care
policy, but it has few means of influencing the way that local
authorities deliver care. Local authorities have powers to assess
needs and manage care. The Department should determine where market
oversight is not sufficient, and if more central oversight is
necessary. The recent financial problems faced by Southern Cross
illustrate the need for government to develop a system to address
serious provider failure.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today:"As
the population ages and more pressure is put on social care, the
Department must ensure that its oversight of the care market is
robust, that people have access to the information and support that
they need and that it has arrangements in place in the event of
large providers getting into financial difficulty."
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow, said: "The report's
comments on provider failure are a helpful contribution to our
wider work on market oversight for social care.
"As outlined in a written ministerial statement last week, the
government is considering whether additional measures of market
oversight are required. We will shortly be publishing a
discussion paper seeking views on this issue."
To download the report visit the National Audit Office