Essex Pilots Individual Budgets For Disabled People

Disabled people in south Essex could soon be taking back control over their care thanks to a Government pilot scheme. Gary MacTaggart, 48, of Temple Close, Billericay, is one of five disabled people living on individual budgets as part of the scheme which is being run by Essex County Council. It means Mr MacTaggart, who lives with multiple sclerosis, is in total control of his care, allowing him to budget his money into the things he really needs to make his life easier.

He said: “If you imagine as a disabled person you’re slightly marginalised by society and trying to take part even in simple things – like going out can be quite expensive. Individual budgets give you a certain amount of flexibility and allows me to plan more for the future.

“What this does is give us more control over our lives as opposed to the Big Brother approach of filling in forms and being watched over. I just want to live the same as everybody else and this will be one little step towards that.”

Previously a council made direct payments to disabled people based on assessment by social care services or requests from the disabled people themselves.

The pilot is taking place in 13 local authorities across the country and ends in December 2007. It is then hoped the scheme will be introduced nationwide. The pilot came from a Government paper called Improving Life Chances for Disabled People.

Anne McGuire, minister for disabled people, said: “This is not about additional money or cutting back on support. It’s about using those resources in a more effective way for the people who need the most. This is the route we wanted to go down. We are testing it out. There will be some hiccups and we need to make sure we don’t disadvantage people, but it really can make a difference to the lives of disabled people.”

The money stumped up for the scheme is being streamed from various funding schemes within Essex County Council’s social care.

Councillor Sarah Candy said: “Individual budgets are potentially one of the most radical and empowering overhauls of social care to have been proposed in modern times, and we are really keen to see it work.

“The goal is to put the individual at the centre of the process and to give them the power to decide the nature of their own support and needs. This system recognises that they, ultimately, are the person best placed to understand their own needs and how to meet them.”