Personal budgets

People will be able to control the way they are cared for by using a personal budget. This means people will get a specific amount of money to spend on the care they need.

The draft Care and Support Bill makes service users and carers entitled to a personal budget, which will be provided as part of their care and support plan. People will be clear what their care needs are and the resources available to meet those needs. The new law reflects the existing objective that by April 2013 everyone eligible for ongoing social care should be provided with a personal budget, preferably as a direct payment.

Benefits of personal budgets

Personal budgets generally have a positive impact on the quality of people’s lives (see the POET survey, May 2011). They allow people to tailor the services they receive to meet their exact needs and preferences. For example, one woman uses her personal budget to pay for an epilepsy seizure alert dog, meaning that she can live independently, knowing that her dog will alert her to the signs of a seizure so she can get to a safe place.

Personal budgets provide a better experience of care and better results for people, compared with traditionally delivered social services, for the same amount of money (see Audit Commission report, June 2011).

Research published by the National Audit Office in September 2011, ‘Oversight of user choice and provider competition in care markets’, found that direct payments offer the most flexibility and control for people. Personal budgets not provided as direct payments offer a little less control, but they need less day-to-day management, so they may be a simpler option for some people.

The new, more consistent approach to offering personal budgets will make the process clearer to users of services, commissioners and staff.

Developing the use of direct payments in residential care

Currently, direct payments only apply in community care. The Department wants to identify local authorities that would like to be involved in developing the use of direct payments in residential care.

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