As a prior long term resident of Brixton, London, I thought myself beyond surprise at any of the antics of Lambeth Town Hall. My experience harks back to the days of Red Ken flying the hammer and sickle over the Town Hallâ¦â¦
I did a double take though, when I read of Lambethâs enthusiastic embrace of the Commission on Personalisationâs innovative ideas.
âA fundamental shift of choice and control to service usersâ?
Wow! Lambeth was positively the last place you would expect the âbig societyâ to take root.
âThere has been a growing consensus that the age of âtop-downâ public services is coming to an endâ
Am I really reading this?
âMore recently, the term âpersonalisationâ has become inextricably linked with budgetary mechanisms, such as personal budgets and direct payments, which are becoming increasingly commonplace in social careâ.
*Shifts nervously in seat and continues reading*
âthere are pilot programmes across a number of public service delivery areas, including health, criminal justice, welfare to work, education, childrenâs services and substance abuseâ.
We are still talking about âdirect paymentsâ â Yes?
Direct payments were introduced in 1997 following the passing of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act. In October 2010 this was extended to those affected by mental health and substance misuse. Over the coming years, all service-users accessing social care services will be phased on to personal budgets.
Pilots have shown that those holding personal budgets are often shying away from some of the more traditional services on offer and opting to draw up creative support plans that develop skills and self-confidence and build links with local communities.
Uh, huh. Thus we learn that âAdamâ used his direct payment to live independently, improve his fitness and develop his social network. âEdwinâ used his to âbuild up a close network of friendsââ¦â¦â¦.
âExperiences like Adamâs are fairly common and others have opted to spend their budgets even more creatively â on horse-riding lessons, arts and crafts material, self defence classes, having a new haircut etc [â¦]the organisation freed up resources from within the value of their statutory contract to allow each service-user to have a âpersonal budgetâ of Â£40 a week with no restrictions on what it could be spent on, as long as it was being directed towards meeting an agreed outcome (for example, building confidence) and legal. [â¦]Another service-user used the funding to have her hair styled, increasing her overall sense of well-being and her self-confidence. One used it to make regularly trips to a city farm, whilst another used it at a pub as a way of making contact with a local darts teamâ¦.â
Need I tell you that Lambeth Town Hall have spent a couple of years on this project, holding meetings, seminars, and writing a glossy 76 page booklet explaining exactly how to use the budget lovingly provided by tax payers to pay for those essential front line services that we are always being told are at risk â to hand out Â£40 a week to enable local substance abusers to go to the pub and build up a close network of friends?