Long-term Care Funding: Handle with care

Changes to the funding of long-term care offers its users advantages, but also some surprising challenges.

By Barry Sweetbaum, December 13, 2010
Service users will have more hands-on involvement in how their care budget is used

Service users will have more hands-on involvement in how their care budget is used

Radical changes are afoot to the funding of personal care.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow recently announced that the government will be transferring responsibility for commissioning care to users of services through "personal budgets". This announcement coincided with the launch of its vision for adult social care, under the banner "Capable Communities and Active Citizens" and may have all-too-immediate consequences for those receiving care.

A policy of personal budgets, where people have control over the funds allocated for their social care, kicks into touch the one-size-fits-all approach that has been dogging the sector for decades. The allocated budget may be taken as cash (a direct payment) or as a service managed on the service user's behalf, where they have choice and control over how the funding for their care is spent. It can be used to design and purchase support from the public, private and third sectors.

While personal budgets offer individuals huge flexibility and control, with this comes responsibility. Personal budgets have existed since 1996, however to date only 13 per cent of those eligible have opted to take one.

The key concern expressed by many is that service users find themselves in the position of being the employers of the carers who have been hired to provide support - with the associated legal, tax, training and insurance consequences.

Individuals, for instance, who do not provide the proper moving and handling training for staff leave themselves open to fines and settlements in a situation where an employee injures themselves at work. Moving and handling injuries are the most frequent form of injury at work in the care sector and, no matter what, the legal responsibility for this rests with the employer.

Sweettree will help you shop for groceries - and care services

Sweettree will help you shop for groceries - and care services

Another challenge with personal budgets is the lack of back-up in the event of something going wrong with the care arrangements. If a carer becomes ill, or just fails to show up for work, the person organising the care has to make alternative arrangements, sometimes within minutes, to ensure their loved one is not left without support.

The team at SweetTree Home Care Services supports the expansion of personal budgets, as they transfer control over the care provided to service users and their families. We have many clients on personal budgets who successfully procure care services from us, which provides them with the flexibility to manage their care while avoiding the pitfalls highlighted above.

If we can assist with advice or further insight into personal budgets, call Nicki Bones, operations director, 020 7624 9944.

Barry Sweetbaum is managing director of Sweettree Home Care Services. www.sweettree.co.uk

Last updated: 12:10pm, December 13 2010