People Need the Personal Touch; Those with Mental Health Problems Who Are on Personal Budgets Need More Information about How to Use the Funds and One-to-One Contact, Writes Sarah Richardson

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Richardson

PEOPLE with a mental health problems who use personal budgets need consistent contact with a worker who knows their circumstances. That's the conclusion of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), which analysed people's experiences of using self-directed support and personal budgets. Mental health providers need to offer better quality information on personal budget options available to service users.

Personal budgets have been in use by a number of people with mental health problems for some time.

Among a number of findings, SCIE heard from personal budget-holders that they needed more information about how to use the funding. They also wanted consistent contact with one person throughout the time they are being assessed and during support planning and review. This person would understand their circumstances.

Users also want choice but can sometimes find the social care and support market is not developed enough to allow a wider choice. They are generally able to manage their budgets, but often welcome support from others in a similar position.

David Walden is director of adult services for SCIE, an independent charity that works across the UK to improve care services by sharing knowledge about what works.

He said: "Personal budgets and self-directed support are an important aspect of providing more personalised services. [Our] work gives an overview of how well personal budgets are currently working for people with mental health problems.

"There are successes and challenges. One important message is that people who have personal budgets must be listened to so that they are offered, and receive, the care and support they can choose and control."

Joanne, for example, cares for her husband David, who has depression.

David's personal budget saw him join an indoor bowling club in his local village and he now goes there three afternoons a week.

David is able to tell people about his mental health problems and Joanne is reassured that his friends at the club would let her know if he was having problems.

Joanne says: "I've got the confidence to know that I've got a couple of hours to myself and he's safe."

SCIE captures, analyses and disseminates innovative approaches to new challenges, translates research into practical guides and learning material, improves the knowledge and skills of frontline social care and social work staff, managers, commissioners and trainers, and covers adults', families' and children's care services. It has also published a fuller report on personal budgets for older people and those with mental health problems.

The research was commissioned from a joint team at Acton Shapiro, the National Centre for Independent Living and the Social Policy Research Unit.

The national evaluation of the 13 Department of Health individual budgets' pilot sites concluded that although individual budgets could give people a greater sense of control and satisfaction with services, there were differences in the uptake and outcomes for older people and people with mental health problems.

This six-month study, which involved five local authorities, 69 users, 40 practitioners and managers and 12 support provider organisations, explores these findings in more depth.

Think Local, Act Personal is a sector-wide commitment to moving forward with personalisation and community-based support. …