Carers' roles in personal budgets: tensions and dilemmas in front line practice

Mitchell W, Brooks J, Glendinning C

British Journal of Social Work 2015, 45, 5: 1433—1450

Available online 30 Mar 2014


Adult social care in England emphasises the service and support preferences of disabled and older people. Personal budgets play a central role in this development. Carers in England have also secured rights to assessment and support in their care-giving roles. However, these policies have developed largely separately, with little consideration of the interdependencies between disabled and older people and their carers. There is limited evidence detailing current practice. This paper explores current practice, particularly how far social care practitioners recognise and balance the needs and interests of service users and carers, especially those with cognitive and/or communication impairments. The paper reports findings from nine qualitative focus groups (forty-seven participants) conducted in 2012 with practitioners involved in service user personalisation and carer assessments from older people and learning disability teams across three English authorities. Findings indicate inconsistencies in practice. Although practitioners felt they sought to involve carers, practices varied between authorities, teams and colleagues in the same team. Clear and timely links between processes for service users and carers were absent. Practice was discussed most frequently around service user assessments; other stages of personalisation appeared ad hoc. Areas of confusion and tension are identified. Future policy and practice developments and challenges are also considered.