New research has shown that many disabled people are benefiting from moves towards the personalisation of support, even in areas where large numbers have been given control over their care budgets.
The conclusion came as the national charity In Control published a report examining the impact of the introduction of personal budgets between 2005 and 2009.
John Waters, who leads on technical development, research and evaluation for In Control, said councils like Barnsley were showing it was possible to introduce personal budgets on a large scale and still have a positive impact on disabled people’s lives.
But he said not all local authorities had done so well, and warned: “The challenge will be how do we give local people, disabled people, the information and the support to challenge their local authority if they are not handing over control.”
In Control – which helps local authorities deliver personalised services – analysed information on personal budgets from 75 local authorities.
It found that the number of people using personal budgets grew from just 60 in 2006 to 30,000 by the end of last year, although less than a third of councils had made personal budgets available to more than 200 people.
In further detailed research carried out with a smaller number of local authorities, two-thirds of people said the control they had over their support had improved since taking up a personal budget. And more than two thirds said their overall quality of life had improved.
The report warns that not all disabled people who receive a direct payment for their support are enjoying the control necessary for it to be described as a genuine “personal budget”.
A true personal budget, according to In Control, means the recipient knows how much money they have for their support; can spend the money at times and in ways that make sense to them; and knows what outcomes must be achieved by spending the money.
Waters said the government needed to carry out a “radical overhaul” of how it measures local authorities’ progress on personalisation.
He said: “We need to increase the voice of disabled people in that process and measure outcomes, not activity.”
He said this would require “much greater investment” in supporting disabled people’s organisations and local communities, rather than worrying about changing local authority systems.
18 March 2010