Personal budgets: summit or nowt?

At the Personalisation Summit yesterday, chaired by the Minister, Norman Lamb MP, and hosted by Think Local Act Personal and the Dept Health, we had a useful recap on the findings from the second POET survey of people in 20 odd local authorities about their experience of personal budgets. As in previous surveys, the average result of a personal budget is improvement in outcomes and experience, which is encouraging. What was helpful about this survey was that the report also sets out the range of responses, which, even amongst the local authorities committed enough to take part in POET, was wide.

Another striking feature was that the positive outcomes of personal budgets, for both people using budgets and for family carers, tended to be around the quality and experience of support to live independently, with the findings on some less service-related areas of life, including friendships, volunteering and getting a job, showing smaller improvements. In the worst performing areas surveyed, the increase in people gaining employment was almost zero, for instance.

So, on average, having a personal budget is better than not having one. And having that budget as a Direct Payment continues to be associated with better outcomes still. But it is still possible of course to have a personal budget or a Direct Payment (or be deemed to have one) and to experience no improvements, particularly in areas of life where services are less relevant, however purchased or managed.

Personal budgets and Direct Payments are clearly just one – vital – part of achieving change. Helping people who use services to take on or sustain roles and responsibilities within their families, communities and as members of the workforce, needs a deeper change, which only a few areas are achieving. We all need to learn from them if we are going to genuinely Make it Real.

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