(Note: This is my personal website, so these represent personal views)
Some leading charities yesterday issued a warning about Personal Budgets, claiming that they could be a means by which Local Authorities are hoping to save money.
This has really riled me.
The social care system is under immense pressure at the moment: huge current demand, massive future demand, huge funding pressures anyway, and significant cuts about to make themselves known (if they haven’t already).
And, in amongst this, the personalisation of adult social care amounts to one of the biggest public service reforms of the last decade.
This personalisation has taken many forms, but one key form has been the introduction of what are known as “Personal Budgets”. Under this reform and put very simply, instead of the Council using its budget to pay for services that people can then take or leave, an individual is allocated an amount of money that will meet the needs the Council has assessed the individual as having. The person can then use this money as they wish to meet their needs.
It’s not an understatement to say that this revolutionises the way social care is provided. At the simplest level, it means that an individual has far more choice and control over their social care than the Council arranging it on their behalf. Undoubtedly, there are challenges with Personal Budgets on a number of levels, not least of which is ensuring that everyone of every impairment type can benefit from them. But in principle, I fully support them.
So when well-known disability and care organisations suggest that Personal Budgets are a means by which Councils are trying to make cuts, it bothers me.
Of course, I live in the real world. I understand the huge pressures that the social care system faces, and I know that Councils may put balancing their own budgets before meeting the needs of individuals.
But the key point is this: the financial pressures that Councils face are the same pressures they’d have faced whether personalisation happened or not.
My question to the organisations who have issued their warning – and who are part of a large number of familiar organisations almost constantly issuing press releases and statements on the topic of social care, as if they were disinterested representatives of service users – is this: would they rather the cuts to social care happened in an unreformed social care system, or in one that places choice and control at its very heart?