A personal budget is an amount of money identified to fund the support required by a child or young person to achieve their outcomes. It is controlled by the individual or family to whom it is attached. It is important to understand the meaning of the term ‘personal budget’, as many people believe that a personal budget always involves a direct payment.
What was the old system like?
Professionals in the LA or Primary Care Trust (now Clinical Commissioning Groups and Commissioning Support Units) decided which services were needed and by whom they would be provided. In the vast majority of cases, contracts and invoicing were dealt with in these organisations. There was some development of personalisation and personal budgets in social care, initially in adult services, and evidence of direct payments. Where a personal budget is offered in children’s social care it was usually used to pay for a short break, either purchasing an activity or a personal assistant to support a child. Personal budgets were also trialled by the Department of Health with a pilot starting in 2009; testing with children was limited.
What has changed?
All children and young people (and/or their family) with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) must be given the option of using a personal budget to manage their support from September 2014. In addition, children and young people without an EHC plan may also access a personal budget comprised of health and/or social care funding. All personal budgets must be clearly linked to outcomes, which are recorded in a personalised plan.
Funding for a personal budget can be drawn from education, health or social care funding, or a combination of these elements. The idea of ‘joining up’ or integrating services sits alongside this to ensure that support is co-ordinated to help the child or young person to achieve their outcomes. The ultimate aim is that different funding streams will be ‘pooled’ into one budget which can be used to holistically support all of a child or young person’s needs. Removing the separation between funding and services results in things being much easier to manage by a service user.
It is up to local areas to decide exactly what types of provision can and cannot be purchased through a personal budget and this ‘menu’ may differ considerably between areas.
There are different options for using a personal budget:
Notional: an organised arrangement where funding is retained by the LA/CCG who commissions support on behalf of an individual. Families will know how much is in their budget and will be able to challenge how it is spent.
Managed: funds are paid to a third party individual or organisation to manage on behalf of a family. The family is given choice and control over how the budget is used.
Direct payment: cash payments to individuals/families, who will contract, purchases and manage services themselves.
Each LA and CCG will have to decide on the ‘rules’ for personal budgets in their area – i.e. what services can and can’t be included and publish this information in their local offer. CCGs must make Continuing Health Care funding available through a personal budget.