SCIE Report 40: Keeping personal budgets personal: learning from the experiences of older people, people with mental health problems and their carers
Moving to a personal budget
Deciding on a personal budget
personal budget holders and carers emphasised the importance of people being given clear and understandable information about what a personal budget is, how it can be used and what is involved in holding one. However, it was clear that the process of getting this information was almost as important as the information itself.
Most personal budget holders and carers had been given some written information, and certainly all the case study local authorities produced a range of written information about personal budgets.
Generally, personal budget holders and carers felt that the written information they had been given was helpful, but several found the amount of information daunting and said that it had taken them time to 'process it'. As one carer put it, 'it was a bit mind-boggling at first'. The personal budget holders and carers emphasised the importance of:
- leaflets/booklets being written in plain English with minimum use of jargon
- providing information about different aspects of personal budgets in 'bite-sized chunks'
- information being presented in a format that feels accessible and manageable
- offering alternatives to written information (e.g. DVDs, podcasts etc.)
- information tailored to the needs and interests of different groups of people who use services, with concrete examples of what the money might be spent on (following approval)
- information specifically designed for carers
- better information about the financial aspects of personal budgets (e.g. managing the money or flexibility in spending the money).
Overall, written information seemed to be most helpful when practitioners used it as a basis for a discussion about personal budgets and worked through it with the person using services (and their carer, if appropriate). While personal budget holders and carers valued having written information, it was usually the time spent discussing personal budgets with their social worker, community psychiatric nurse or support provider organisation that helped them the most. Again, there were a number of factors which enhanced the experience of personal budget holders and carers, notably where:
- practitioners had a sound understanding of personal budgets and could talk about the process of taking up and managing a personal budget clearly and knowledgeably
- people felt they were being listened to and personal budgets were being discussed with them in relation to their lifestyles and circumstances
- there was adequate time for issues to be explained and explored, and questions followed up
- there was scope for more than one discussion, with people having time to read and digest written information in between discussions, with information being repeated if necessary.
These discussions were not simply about imparting factual information. People using services saw them as an important part of the process of deciding if a personal budget was the right choice, and if it was, working through what support they would need to manage it.
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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