Headlines: February 27th, 2009

Independent research into direct payment of personalised care budgets commissioned by the Department of Health has shown that carers benefit as well as the people they care for. There are six million carers in the UK.

Personal care budgets are an alternative way of paying for social care. Instead of local authorities buying services on behalf of an individual, that person is given control of their own budget and can direct how it is spent, allowing the care package to be tailored to their needs.

The research revealed that personal care budgets can greatly improve carers’ quality of life when compared with carers of people using conventional social services. They can allow carers more control and flexibility in their daily routines, and some carers said individual budgets also improved quality of life for the person they were looking after.

Carers are more able to engage in activities of their choice and they welcome the greater flexibility, choice and control. This positively affected how they spent their time, and improved the quality of life of the service user.

Further conclusions were greater opportunities for carers to help plan support for the people they care for under personal care budgets than in conventional services. Carers of older people in particular were found to benefit in this way when the people they cared for had a personal budget.

However, the research also highlighted that the assessment process for service users’ personal care budgets can sometimes overlook the needs of carers. Local authority officers also had mixed views about paying carers from a person’s personal care budget.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Caring for Carers welcomed the research showing that personal care budgets are, overall, having a positive impact on carers’ lives. Alex Fox of the Trust said: “We would agree that the budgets need to be implemented properly to allow carers greater involvement in the decisions which affect their lives. However some councils are neglecting to do this. Where carers feel isolated and under-valued, care plans for very vulnerable people can break down. Neither families, nor the social care system’s budgets can afford this.”