SCIE Report 40: Keeping personal budgets personal: learning from the experiences of older people, people with mental health problems and their carers

About this report


The research was conducted by a joint team from Acton Shapiro, the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU). An advisory group was also established to help steer and inform the research. The research team began by bringing together the key policy and research literature to ensure that the project could build upon what is already known about personal budgets. This information was also used to inform the development of the research instruments and to establish the criteria which would guide the selection of case study sites. The research was then conducted in three main stages.

Recruitment of the case study local authorities

Interviews with 10 national organisations and the knowledge and contacts of the research team were used to identify possible case study local authorities. Five local authorities (two with partner mental health trusts) agreed to take part. They provided a broad mix of councils, and different geographical, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

Fieldwork in the case study sites

For each LA/trust, the research team began by drawing together basic contact and personal budget information. A combination of approaches to data collection was then used:

A number of approaches (tailored to each site) were then used to find people who use services and carers willing to take part in the study. The exact mix of interviews and groups varied, but 69 personal budget holders and carers, 40 practitioners and managers and 12 support provider organisations (including five user-led organisations) eventually contributed to the research.

Analysis and development of findings

All the interviews and discussions were recorded and transcribed using detailed notes and quotes. The data was then analysed thematically and illustrated using 'personal stories' from personal budget holders and carers, and 'positive practice examples'. Some of these are provided throughout this report.

Further details on the methodology and background research are available in the appendices 1 and 2 in the pdf version of this report.


We would like to thank all the personal budget holders and carers who kindly shared their experiences with us – they are at the heart of this report. We are also very grateful to the local authorities, mental health trusts and support provider organisations in our five case study sites:

Many managers and practitioners made time in their busy 'day jobs' to help us with this research, both in supporting the fieldwork and contributing their views, and without them the work would not have been possible.

We would also like to thank the members of our advisory group, who brought their personal and professional experience and guided the research. Lastly, we are particularly grateful to our colleagues at the Social Policy Research Unit. Their expertise, advice and support has been invaluable.


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  • SCIE Report 40: Keeping personal budgets personal: learning from the experiences of older people, people with mental health problems and their carers