Supporting choice: support planning, older people and managed personal budgets

Rabiee P, Baxter K, Glendinning C

Journal of Social Work 2016, 16, 4: 453—469

Available online 23 Apr 2015

Abstract

Summary
English policy emphasises personalised and flexible social care support using ‘Personal Budgets’ (PB) – preferably as cash direct payments. However, most older people opt for their council to manage personal budgets on their behalf. It is not clear what benefits of personalisation are available to this group of older people. This article reports research into the choices available to older people using managed personal budgets to fund home care services in three councils. It focuses on the roles of support planners, in councils and service provider agencies, who are central to supporting choice on the part of service users. Data were collected from three focus groups with 19 council support planning practitioners and interviews with 15 managers of home care agencies.

Findings
The study suggests that new commissioning and brokerage arrangements have the potential to give older people using managed personal budgets greater choice and control over their support. However, new communication barriers have also been introduced and some staff report receiving inadequate training for their new roles. Above all, resource constraints were reported to impede council support planners in encouraging users to plan creatively how to use personal budgets. Resource constraints also meant councils placed constraints on how flexibly home care agencies could respond to changing needs and preferences of older users.

Applications
The paper concludes by highlighting the implications of new arrangements for social work practice and some of the barriers that need to be addressed if the potential benefits of personalisation for older people holding managed personal budgets are to be achieved.