A national charity that helped develop the idea of personal budgets has raised “serious concerns” about the way they are being introduced by some local authorities.
In Control, which helps councils deliver personalised services, said some authorities were restricting how disabled people could spend their personal budgets as a “quick-win way to save money”.
In Control said it was starting to hear examples of councils telling disabled people: “Here is your personal budget but you have to spend it on the same things you are already having.”
Holders of a personal budget are supposed to be given an agreed amount of council funding and then be allowed to decide how best to spend it on their own care and support.
An In Control spokeswoman said some councils were “scaling back” the use of personal budgets because they mistakenly believed they would increase costs.
Julie Stansfield, In Control’s chief executive, said personal budgets “make a massive, positive difference to people’s lives but only when councils introduce and manage them in the right way”.
She added: “We know that personal budgets are more efficient and effective but the whole system is at risk if councils don’t start making some significant progress.”
Her comments came as the public spending watchdog, the Audit Commission, said some councils would need to make a “significant effort” to meet government targets for signing people up to personal budgets.
The report, Financial Management of Personal Budgets, says that the eight councils it visited as part of its research “gave many examples of how personal budgets were starting to make a difference to people’s lives”.
But it warns that “many councils have a long way to go” to match the progress made by those local authorities leading the way on personalisation.
At least 30 per cent of eligible social care-users or carers should have a personal budget by April 2011, according to Department of Health targets.
A survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association earlier this year implies that about 18 per cent of eligible people were receiving a personal budget, says the report.
The commission also said it was concerned at councils’ failure to provide personal budgets to more people with mental health conditions, with several not offering them at all.
It said that joint arrangements, such as pooled funds with a primary care trust or mental health trust, were “not flexible enough to adapt to personal budgets”.
28 October 2010