SCIE Report 40: Keeping personal budgets personal: learning from the experiences of older people, people with mental health problems and their carers
Managing the personal budget
Monitoring and audit arrangements varied considerably between the study sites and a number explained that their systems were still evolving. However, examples of positive practice were already emerging.
In most of the case study sites the 'administration' element of monitoring personal budgets held as direct payments was carried out by a separate administration/finance team. For example, in one LA monitoring and audit is carried out by the direct payments team. However, if the personal budget was deployed through directly provided services, then the financial review would take place alongside the annual review. In the mental health trusts, community psychiatric nurses often had quite a hands-on role in monitoring personal budgets.
Generally, personal budget holders and carers understood the need for their personal budget to be monitored and had set up their own ways of recording and keeping the information required, ranging from simple systems for filing receipts and bank statements to logging expenditure and spreadsheets. However, there were also aspects of the monitoring systems which people found hard work, or impractical or excessive. For example, photocopying receipts was difficult and costly for some personal budget holders. Alternatively, taking receipts into the council offices was for some personal budget holders with complex care arrangements a major task, as their paperwork could fill several boxes which they then had to find a way of transporting. Some of the case study sites were addressing this by offering home visits from their personal budget or direct payment teams.
A common area of concern for personal budget holders and carers was what they were allowed to do with unspent funds. Although most of the case study sites had rules or guidance about what proportion of a personal budget could be carried over to the next year and when money had to be given back, many personal budget holders felt unclear about what these 'rules' were.
Some personal budget holders and carers commented that it would be better to be able to carry over a small underspend to the following year, rather than be burdened with anxiety over what to do with the spare funds.
Personal budget holders and carers suggested a number of things which had or could make monitoring easier for them:
- clear guidance about what is expected in terms of records and paperwork, including examples of systems other personal budget holders have found helpful
- optional training for personal budget holders and carers in 'managing your personal budget'
- having a nominated link person in the LA direct payments team who can be contacted in the event of difficulties and who has some knowledge of their case
- not having to keep receipts for small items of expenditure
- clear information about how underspends will be dealt with
- for those with high personal budgets who are required to have a full audit, different ways of carrying out the audit should be offered (e.g. an officer coming to the house to look at receipts and records)
All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following download you will need a free MySCIE account:
- SCIE Report 40: Keeping personal budgets personal: learning from the experiences of older people, people with mental health problems and their carers