The independent evaluation was conducted by a combined team of five university research units. It found that individual budgets had particular benefits for mental health service users and younger disabled people. While there were no important differences in overall cost (IBs cost on average about £280 compared with £300 for standard mainstream services), there were indications that individual budgets have the potential to offer greater value for money.
Individual budgets give people who have care needs the power to decide the nature of their own support and the report showed that most groups liked this. People can choose to use the money to fund the care that suits them best and fits in with their lifestyle - for example by having someone support them at home rather than going into residential care.
Mental health service users in the individual budget group reported a significantly higher quality of life. Younger physically disabled people were more likely to report higher quality of care, and were more satisfied with the help they received, the choice and control they experienced and felt they had the opportunity to build better quality support networks. People with learning disabilities were more likely to feel that they had control over their daily lives.
However, the report found that older people did not find the individual budget system used during the pilot as easy to use as the other groups, and they did not appear to like the idea of managing their own support.
Care Services Minister Phil Hope said:
"Individual budgets can put people back in control of their own care, and give them a better quality of life. This report is invaluable in helping us understand the benefits of individual budgets, as well as the action we need to take so that everyone can benefit from them.
"Since this research was undertaken more support has been put in place for older people and early indicators have shown that this has transformed their experiences of using individual budgets. We will conduct further research to investigate the impacts further. We must also get better at letting people know that they don't have to take on management of the budget themselves.
This is a very complex area. We will work to address the recommendations of this report, to make greater choice and control a reality for many more people."
The results of this research will feed into work to introduce pilots of personal budgets for healthcare from 2009, as announced in the NHS Next Stage Review.
As part of the Department of Health's plan to transform social care, the Department announced in late 2007 it would empower people to shape their own lives and the services they receive through personal budgets.
Notes to Editors :
1. The "Evaluation of the Individual Budget Pilot Projects" report is independent, written by a combined team from The University of York's Social Policy Research Unit, Kings College London's Social Care Workforce Research Unit and the Personal Social Services Research Unit of Manchester University, LSE and the University of Kent. They are collectively called The Individual Budgets Evaluation Network (IBSEN). The report can be found at the Department of Health website :
2. The report is an evaluation of the pilot scheme conducted over two years, 2006-2007. It involved a survey of 959 people including disabled groups, older people and young people in transition to adulthood.
3. Further research on the impact of individual budgets on carers will be published in due course. Early findings from the research suggest that at least some carers of older people may experience considerable benefits from the flexibility offered by IB's.
4. The aim of Individual Budgets is to give individuals the power to decide the nature of their own support. An IB brings together resources from different funding streams into a single sum that can be spent flexibly in accordance with their needs and preferences. They can either have the money paid to them directly and then make their own arrangements to meet their needs, or ask the Council to provide services, or a mixture of both.
5. The Individual Budgets project was commissioned by the Department of Health in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG). The Supporting People programme, one of the six funding streams included in the IB pilots and managed by CLG , was identified by the IB managers as one of the most flexible of the funding streams. It is possible for a majority of Local Authorities to deliver IBs which include SP within the terms of the existing Grant Conditions - a number of non pilot authorities are starting to develop processes to do so.
6. 'Putting People First' - a vision for the transformation of social care - was launched alongside a £520 million Social Care Reform grant in Dec 2007. It set out the need to empower citizens to shape their own lives and the services they receive. This included giving the vast majority of people who receive funded care thewith clear rules - for example to ensure that it fully supports the principles of the NHS as a comprehensive service, free at the point of use.
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