Nick Clegg today announced that Community Budgets are to be rolled out more extensively than they currently are. As Public Finance puts it:
Under Community Budgets, various different sources of funding are merged into a single ‘local bank account’. The current pilots are pooling money for tackling social problems around families with complex needs… [and Councils can] put forward plans for their own Community Budgets [so that] plans would be developed locally for the pooling of both central and local government budgets.
This is a good idea and follows similar ideas around pooling budgets that have been around for a while. It also creates a space in which services can be more personalised around individuals rather than individuals having to fit around services.
I’ve had the fortune to be involved in two programmes with the same intention to do this before, specifically (though not limited to) adult social care. The first was the Individual Budgets pilot (an evaluation of which is available here), which sought to pool budgets from adult social care, Access to Work, Independent Living Fund, Supporting People, Disabled Facilities Grant, and local integrated Community Equipment Services.
The second is the current Right to Control trailblazers, which seeks to pool budgets from adult social care, Access to Work, Independent Living Fund, Supporting People, Disabled Facilities Grant and Workchoice.
That the Right to Control trailblazers cover virtually the same funding streams as the IB pilots should give you an idea of what I’m going to say next: pooling budgets is not as easy as it looks.
I’ve written about 5 key areas the Right to Control trailblazers grappled with early on: detailed analysis starts here and covers issues like legislation and regulations, policy ‘versus’ process and public agencies working together.
So whilst I fully support Community Budgets – especially as they provide the potential for more personalised services for people, and particularly because I recognise them as reflecting the way public services will (need to) be delivered in the future – let’s not be under any illusions about how hard they’ll be to deliver.
Clegg et al. might not like it, but they’ll need brilliant public sector managers and leaders to make it happen. They’ll also need money, too.