What community budgets can learn from the Right to Control and the Individual Budgets pilot

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.


If #Dilnot isn’t taken forward then politics will have failed

If the report in tomorrow’s Observer newspaper is to be believed, there are Cabinet divisions over Andrew Dilnot’s report on the future funding of adult social care.

If we’re in a position where the Lib Dems – and particularly Nick Clegg – are in support of Dilnot’s proposals, and the Cameron/Osborne axis are against them and want to shelve the report, then it’s potentially a disaster.

Politics will have failed to address one of the major social policy issues of our time.

We’ve been down the road of trying to “solve” the adult social care funding issue so many times, starting with the Royal Commission back in 1999. In the last 18 months alone a national debate on social care, a Green and White paper, plus a Health Select Committee report have all been published, along with countless analyses by key organisations like Age UK and Carers UK.

A consensus was reached prior to the 2010 General Election, only for it to disappear as the election campaign started. Dilnot’s Commission appeared to be a serious way for the issue of social care funding to be considered and addressed, and I was hopeful for its outcomes.

If, then, Dilnot’s recommendations are to be rejected, I hope there’s a substantial  and serious proposal waiting in the wings to address this most pressing of issues.

Our politicians have a moral imperative to ensure the future of social care funding is known, sustainable and fair.

“Dad, who was Nick Clegg?”

Today’s tuition fees vote will make for an interesting bit of history in 20 years’ time.

Before I say why, here are a few (probably unpopular) thoughts on the issue of tuition fees:

  • I agree in both principle and practice with tuition fees. A university education is a choice, and something to be valued by the individual who makes that choice. Once the principle of fees had been established by the Labour government the politics of funding higher education was always going to be about where the cap on fees was, not whether there were fees.
  • I don’t happen to think of any education in the utilitarian way politicians seem to think of it – utlitarian as demonstrated by the fact it’s the responsibility of the Business Secretary and not the Education Secretary. Thus, if a higher education is valuable in its own right (whilst also having an economic benefit to the individual and the economy), it should be paid for (at least in majority part) by the individual.
  • Admitting the possibility of fees means a market will, and probably should, develop. Yes, this effectively makes it a US-type model, but I’m comfortable with that. A University Fund for young ‘uns in a family is a good idea.
  • A graduate tax is a nonsense because an individual would never stop paying it and their repayments could be more than the cost of the fees. It has elements of progressiveness in it, but it’s also a disincentive on social mobility.

Watching the Lib Dems struggle on the topic of university tuition fees has, I’ll be honest, brought me some pleasure. Their position was and is a nonsense, as follows:

  • Their position on tuition fees was pretty much the most distinctive and best-known domestic policy they had. They’ve traded that at the fist sniff of power; either that, or they knew their policy was a nonsense but had worked on the basis they would never need to implement it. (This is partly supported by the idea Nick Clegg privately urged his colleagues to drop the position.)
  • I don’t know that anyone had anticipated Clegg’s “New Politics” being the explicit reneging of a personal and party pledge to oppose not just a rise in tuition fees, but the removal of tuition fees.
  • Clegg has tried to defend the move by saying previously 1 in 7 people went to university and now it’s 1 in 3. What is that if not a huge rise in opportunity for people from a wider range of backgrounds?
  • That government ministers even considered not voting for their own policy (even if they end up doing so) tells you what an incredibly ridiculous position the Lib Dems got themselves in.

All things considered – and even taking into account the short memories and fickle nature of the British voting public – the tuition fees debacle as applied to the Lib Dems makes me think they may never in a generation or two be thought of as any sort of credible, governing force at a national level.

When the future comes and I potentially drop my one-year-old as 18-year-old off at university, I’ll think back to today and mention to him the peculiar time when a small party called the Liberal Democrats, led by a pub-quiz question politician called Nick Clegg, abandoned their policy and principles because they happened to have a bit of power.

Nick “Dickens” Clegg

More of that, erm, non-inflammatory language from the coalition government today, with this offer from Nick Clegg:

Welfare needs to become an engine of mobility, changing people’s lives for the better, rather than a giant cheque written by the state to compensate the poor for their predicament.

Compensate “the poor” for their “predicament”?

It’s like living in a Dickens novel.

Clegg and the World Cup bid

Is it just me, or does Nick Clegg completely miss the point during his statement to the FIFA inspection team?

Apart from the fact he nearly called them the infection team, he spent well over half of his statement talking about himself and the coalition rather than how England is the best country for hosting the 2018 World Cup.

And if I was part of FIFA and heard a chap saying that England’s World Cup was “unbeatable”, I’d be thinking to myself: “Well, matey, that’s for me to decide”.

(I know sport and politics doesn’t mix very well. It’s just Clegg’s smugness in the power he holds that gets my goat and makes me post this stuff. #nickcleggsfault, and all that.)

Nick Clegg: revisionist

A fascinating interview with Nick Clegg on Channel 4 tonight.

Of many interesting things he said, the one I’m not that interested in is his assertion that:

This government as a whole doesn’t take a view on the legality of it.

“It” being the Iraq war. I’m not sure it is actually the case that the British government doesn’t take a view on the legality of the Iraq war, even if this government is different to the one that entered into it.

But by far the two most interesting, whiter-than-white assertions that Clegg made were as follows:

I don’t think it’s right for me to enter government and somehow completely airbrush out well-known personal views that I’ve held and expressed for a very long time…
I don’t think politics is well served by politicians falling utterly silent on things that they personally are well known to feel strongly about.

Let’s see:

And that’s the list of stuff that I’ve bothered to keep track of.

Clegg has a slightly revisionist feel to him, doesn’t he?