Big differences between indicative personal budgets and final allocations shows self-directed support is adding to the paperwork and bureaucracy for social workers.

The implementation of personal budgets has reduced social workers’ “productivity” by adding new processes to traditional care management, finds critical research published today.

The model of providing people with an indicative budget following assessment, to plan how they want their care provided seems flawed as, in practice, councils were carrying out a separate process to calculate the final budget after costing the support plan, the research claimed.

As a result, social workers across England were each assessing, reviewing or supporting far fewer people because of the extra red-tape that self-directed support had added to their role, said the paper, The study, by service user activist and social work professor Peter Beresford, social care consultant Colin Slasberg and statistician Peter Schofield, is based on two new pieces of evidence:

  • A study of three councils in England comparing the value of indicative budgets and final allocations for newly assessed service users in 2011-12, based on Freedom of Information (FoI) requests;
  • An analysis of changes in the volume of assessments, reviews and professional support packages delivered by councils in England from 2007-8, the year before personal budgets were rolled out, to 2010-11, and in the number of field work staff employed by adult social services departments, based on local authority      statistical returns to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The FoI-obtained data comparing the costs of final and indicative budgets found that in one area a person given an indicative budget of £245 a week but only received a final budget of £100 a week.  The sample size was small, the researchers concluded: “[This] suggests that the sign-off of the budget appears to be not so much a quick check on whether the figure created by the up-front [indicative] allocation is enough but an entirely separate decision that stands alone from the up-front process.”

The study also found that, from 2007-8 to 2010-11, the number of annual reviews of people with existing packages carried out by councils in England fell by 14%.  However, over the same period, the number of full-time equivalent field work staff in adult social services, who would typically carry out these three roles, rose by 8.6%, suggesting lower levels of “productivity” per worker.

Bringing the two findings together, the researchers concluded that personal budgets had made assessments more time-consuming through the process of establishing indicative budgets; as field work staff were spending more time on each assessment, and the number of assessments had remained constant, they were unable to carry out as many reviews or deliver as many professional support packages.

This may be the case but at Home Care Direct we believe that giving the choice and control over their care at home is the best option for most people, and we are always happy to help individuals and professionals alike make sure this process is as hassle free as possible.

Social care leaders, through the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) coalition to support implementation of personalisation, have acknowledged the problem and made reducing unnecessary processes a priority, including by ensuring a closer fit between indicative and final personal budgets.

A framework for minimising processes produced by TLAP in October 2011 said: “The indicative allocation amount should be as close as possible to the final
approved budget – if it is not then there is a high risk of wasted process (as well as frustrated staff and customers). Adjustment to the [resource allocation system] may be required.”

Home Care Direct are proud to work with TLAP and believes that there might be improvements to be made to the process of personalisation and self-directed support but that giving people the ability to choose their own personal assistants and take control over how their care is provided to them is the best way for care at home.  With our assessment support and dedicated teams of workers we are happy to support people all the way through the process.