06 June 2008
Elderly people and their carers should be given the flexibility to use personal social care budgets to fund gardening or cleaning services, care minister Ivan Lewis has urged.
Lewis was speaking to a June 4 Local Government Association conference on the future of adult social care as the government starts consultation on how care will be organised — and funded — in future. 'It isn't just about a £6bn black hole over the next 20 years, it's about social justice,' he said.
Lewis signalled an expansion of personal budgets, which service users can use to choose and fund their own care packages. The budgets were 'not about choosing from an existing menu' of services but about 'people being able to think innovatively and imaginatively' about the support they needed.
He said some social care recipients had been told they could not use the budgets for services such as gardening or cleaning. 'I don't accept that,' he said, adding that for some families, help with tasks such as gardening would give a family member the time to provide personal care for an elderly relative.
For some people, access to their own budget would follow the Direct Payments model, but others would still have an earmarked personal budget, even if buying services was handled for them by their local authority.
Plans to include some NHS funds in the budgets were announced by prime minister Gordon Brown last month.
Lewis spoke the day after the Commission for Social Care Inspection warned that care homes may be discouraged from helping elderly people with dementia because funding regimes effectively penalise them when a resident's condition improves.
The CSCI used a new method — dubbed Sofi, or Short Observational Framework for Inspection — to examine the way residents with dementia are treated by and interact with care home staff. It warned: 'Inconsistencies in the funding of care homes were seen as a major underlying problem. Where people “improve” because they have responded well to good quality care, fees may be reduced and care providers effectively feel penalised for doing a good job.'
Inspectors who visited 100 care homes found 'examples of excellent personalised care', but their report, published on June 3, adds: 'Clearly this is not universal.'