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Individual budgets could harm the elderly, government warned

22 October 2008

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Older people’s psychological wellbeing could be harmed if they have to arrange their own care using the mooted individual budgets (IB) system, the government has been warned.

Reacting to yesterday’s publication by the Department of Health of the evaluation of the IB pilot programme, a coalition of three of the UK’s largest charities for the elderly and their carers has expressed caution about the way cash for care affects outcomes for older people.

The pilot report showed that older people did not find the IB system as easy to use as other groups, and did not appear to like the idea of managing their own support.

Lizzie McLennan, Senior Policy Officer for health and social care at Help the Aged, said: “Giving people money to arrange their own care in principle is a brilliant idea – and has the potential to completely revolutionise the system of social care in this country.

“However, the results of this independent evaluation show that on balance they are not always so positive on the ground, especially for older people.

“The report shows that older people’s psychological wellbeing was adversely affected when they arranged their own care using their care payment.

“Emotional and psychological wellbeing is just as important as physical health and wellbeing, and the system of arranging and receiving support needs to have this embedded right at its heart. We are very concerned that older people did not receive the support and advice to use their social care money in the best way possible.”

Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive at Carers UK, said: “In the continued drive towards the personalisation of care, it is vital that the government listens to the concerns of those already using personal budgets.

“Managing their own care can deliver real freedom to service users and their carers. However, in many instances, it is the carer who takes on the additional responsibility of managing the IB. Without the right support for disabled people and their carers, IBs will remain a good idea that has huge potential, but that fails to deliver.”

Stephen Burke, Chief Executive at Counsel + Care said: “We must learn the lessons from the pilots as we roll out personal budgets. What is critical is that older people get proper support to take control of their care. That means making good information, advice and advocacy available to all who want and need it.”

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