Disabled people who receive cash payments to buy their own social care services have told researchers how the new system has helped them achieve greater choice and control in their lives.
The study into the use of cash – or direct – payments in Essex found “strong evidence” that they were helping people achieve more control and “more tailored and flexible services”, while service-users – particularly those with physical and sensory impairments – also reported “an increased sense of dignity”.
The report is the second of three in a three-year study of the impact of cash payments on disabled and older people in Essex, and was carried out by Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP) and the Office for Public Management consultancy for Essex County Council.
Rich Watts, ECDP’s director of policy and development, said the research showed that the system provided a solid platform for disabled people to achieve “much wider outcomes” – such as improving family relationships and enjoying leisure opportunities – than traditional social care services.
He said the conclusion that such payments can improve choice and control came through “very, very strongly”, although he said it was still important to allow disabled people the option of having their personal budgets managed by a third party, rather than receiving them via cash payments.
He said the research also showed that disabled people were much less concerned about issues of risk and safeguarding – such as carrying out Criminal Records Bureau checks on prospective personal assistants – than social care professionals.
Watts said: “It is much more about finding the right person to work with.”
He also said he was “really pleased” that the research had provided the perspective of service-users, rather than the usual views of service-providers and local authorities.
The study of 26 service-users did find a small number reporting “stress and anxiety” when trying to solve cash payments problems with the council, while some resented the increased administrative burden if the system had not produced improved services.
The report also found that the limited services on offer to people with learning difficulties were limiting their choice and control.
The report’s recommendations include supporting service-users to create stronger social networks, and providing them with training in managing cash payments; offering council support for new service-providers; and providing more easily accessible information about the market in services.
The report was published as new research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) found more than a third of English councils (37 per cent) have missed the target set by the Labour government to have 30 per cent of all eligible people receiving a personal budget by March 2011.
ADASS said that 132 of 153 English councils responded to the survey.
In total, ADASS believes that a third of all people eligible for social care support are now receiving a personal budget, although a “significant minority” (at least 19 of the 132 councils) are delivering personal budgets to less than 20 per cent of service-users.
And it warned that it was “time for all councils to step up to the plate” if they were to achieve the target of 100 per cent of eligible service-users receiving a personal budget by April 2013.
16 June 2011