Headlines: October 30th, 2009

Local authorities are facing a huge task to get care users ready for the shift to a market in services, according to the think-tank, Dermos. It has published figures which show more than 80 per cent of people who need social and health care have almost no understanding of the new personal budget system.

Demos says this presnts councils with a major task if people are to avoid confusion about what is available. Service users, it says, are facing a chaotic transition to personal budgets over the coming year. The budgets are designed to allow people to buy their own care placements and packages instead of receiving community services. They can take the personal budget as a direct payment or leave councils with the responsibility to commission the services.

The survey found 82 per cent of people knew nothing or very little about the system and among older people that figure rose to 92 per cent. More than half of respondents said they would like to change their care and Demos believes care providers have to begin planning now to prepare for the new services that budget holders will demand. In particular, it says, they will have to anticipate ‘a rocketing demand’ for personal assistants, education and leisure services. The research was  commissioned by private sector care providers Barchester Healthcare and Castlebeck.

Jamie Bartlett, the author of the report, said the transition to personal budgets would revolutionise health and social care, but local authorities would 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,” he said.