SCIE opinion - 17 February 2011

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Photograph of Allan Bowman

Keep personal budgets personal

SCIE's Senior Research Analyst, Sarah Carr

£105 billion. That's the annual cost of mental health problems to the economy, according to the Department of Health.  It recently published the mental health strategy. Ministers want to see mental health to be on a par with physical health.  One aim is to enable more decisions to be taken locally, with people having more choice and information to meet their individual needs.

Some of the spending on those mental health challenges goes to personal budgets. Today we're publishing a new At a glance briefing on personal budgets for people with mental health issues. This is taken from a fuller report, Keeping Personal Budgets Personal, which also looks at personal budgets for older people. 

Personal budgets enable service users to choose their own services. These publications look at the current state of play and wonders what else can be done to improve the situation. 

Consistent contact and clear information

There is much in these publications but I think there are two really important starting points.

Firstly, personal budget holders need consistent contact with a worker who knows their circumstances. Staff who support people with personal budgets need know the options, risks and processes. In fact, most people with mental health problems are able to manage their budgets, but many also welcome consistent support from workers. They also welcome peer support; talking to other people who are using personal budgets. For people with mental health problems, it's all about sharing their experiences of what makes personal budgets work for them.

The second big issue is about people receiving clear information. This includes providing advice on risk and safety. Can personal budgets put people at risk? If you're a worker you may wish to look at our risk e-Learning materials.  The briefing also says that service users with personal budgets need help with assessment and planning. Of course, having knowledgeable staff is particularly important

Keeping Personal Budgets Personal and the At a glance briefing can help commissioners, providers, user-led organisations and information providers to improve their practice.

A further briefing, looking solely at older people's experiences, will be published in March.

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