”With great power comes great responsibility”, or have Councils not seen Spiderman?

An article yesterday regarding the Social Care provision of Lincolnshire County Council suggests that by magically switching from a model of bulk buying for Adult Social Care provision in favour of Personalised Budgets, the council could save hundreds of thousands of pounds. It sounds like Tony McArdle, Chief Executive of the Council, has little idea what he’s talking about. To suggest such a generalised conclusion to a far more complex problem is, if we’re being honest, ludicrous.

Lincolnshire County Council Logo“We need to spend taxpayer’s money better and more equitably”. Well done for stating the obvious Mr McArdle; just about every new government has said the same for years and look how well they’ve done. The truth is that councils and governments have been hopeless at spending money on our behalf for longer than I can remember, which is why I believe that Personal Budgets are a good thing and definitely a progressive way forward. I don’t want someone from Social Services telling me what my care needs are – I know what they are.

However there is a big “but…”. Personal Budgets come with one inherent danger. By giving individuals the financial power to live as independently, Councils place a huge responsibility on those directly receiving the care or one of their family members – that of being an employer. As anyone in business knows, that can be an extremely time-consuming, confusing and a logistical nightmare to master, even for the best of us, unless you can delegate it to a professional. Many social care recipients won’t have any such support. Whilst the Government’s ‘Putting People First’ programme is extremely positive, nothing mentions this added responsibility on people who are in a “vulnerable” position.

Councillor Marsh states that those facing such difficulties could rely on the Council to step back in and take back over for them, but then we’re back to square one, where Councils don’t know how to spend our money the most effectively. There is no way that Councils will be able to keep up with the increased caseload of moving everybody on to a Personal Budget, particularly considering the complex range of needs, many of which can change incredibly quickly.

Unless Councils ensure that there are sufficient service providers in their region to cope with the increased demand of managing such caseloads, with sufficiently trained staff who are able to recognise the changeable individual needs, then moving to a Personal Budget model could be disastrous. The earlier comparison of saving money by switching models ignores the additional funds that need to be spent by councils on such support services to cope with this increased demand.

However, I believe that that overall this is a worthwhile move that should be adopted by more than just Lincolnshire County Council. Providing they have a thoroughly thought out plan for providing people with the proper tools and services that they need to live their lives, it could work very well. Social care needs to be about providing responses in a matter of days and weeks, not months and years. If someone can’t have a carer for a shower on a Monday morning, it’ll mean precious little to them if they can’t get their care plan changed for three months. Councils must plan both for the long term structural future whilst also delivering real and immediate results for those needing care.

Original article can be found here.

Thoughts anyone?


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