Chaos predicted as social care budgets get personal

92% of the older people surveyed said they knew little or nothing about the government’s new scheme to introduce personal budgets for social care

More than 80% of health and social care services users have little or no understanding of personal budgets, the new funding system for social care being introduced over the next year, raising fears of a chaotic transition period, new research reveals today.

The survey concludes that local authorities face a huge task to prepare users for the shift to the system, which will see individuals given their own cash pot to spend on the services they need as they see fit, rather than having their needs assessed and decided upon by others.

By 2011, at least one third of all care users will be managing personal budgets. But the study, which was commissioned by two private sector care services providers, Barchester Healthcare and Castlebeck, and carried out by the think tank Demos and the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University, found that 62% of the 269 people questioned knew nothing about the new system. Another 20% knew very little, and of the older people surveyed, 92% said they knew little or nothing.

For those with physical disabilities the figure was 79%, while among people with learning disabilities it was 73%.

In the past five years, more than 20,000 people in England have moved on to personal budgets, and within the next 12 months all new social care clients should be offered an individual budget at the outset.

Local authorities will need to ready themselves for a massive demand for personal assistants, education and leisure services, according to the research, which found that more than half of respondents would like to change the care they currently get.

There was also a strong demand for existing services such as day centres. And while personal budgets mean service users, and their families or representatives, can be responsible for sourcing and purchasing their own care placements and packages directly from the provider, local authorities were also warned to prepare for a potentially large number of people who do not want to manage their own budgets.

Jamie Bartlett, author of the report said: “The transition to personal budgets will revolutionise health and social care, but local authorities do have their work cut out.

“More than ever before, providers and local authorities need to be ready to respond to the new types of demands that consumers will ask of them.”