Boost for 'Big Society' care reform
David Cameron's "Big Society" welfare reforms have been given a boost from a major survey of social care users.
The new poll of 2,000 people either receiving care, or family looking after them, showed the vast majority supported the scheme where local authorities give cash direct to users to choose their own care services, rather than having the local authority decide for them.
The scheme, known as personal budgets, was started by the last Labour government and championed by Ivan Lewis, the former care services minister.
But the coalition government already plans for all people eligible for social care to receive a personal budget by 2013.
And as part of his Big Society agenda the Prime Minister reportedly plans to extend the principle so more individuals can have personal choice and control of services rather than be dictated by town halls. Full details will be in the long-awaited White Paper, known as the "Big Society Bill", due out next month.
The poll, by social care charity In Control and Lancaster University, is the biggest survey yet of social care users in England who have personal budgets.
The majority, 76%, said personal budgets had a positive impact on their lives, giving them dignity and self respect. And 75% said it helped them stay independent while 72% said personal budgets helped them stay in control of their own care needs.
But the survey also found councils needed to provide better quality systems and processes, with less bureaucracy and simpler rules and regulations.
Julie Stansfield, In Control chief executive, said: "These findings show the huge potential for personal budgets but they also signal a warning that they will only make a difference to people's lives if implemented by councils in the right way and if this doesn't simply become a 'box-ticking' exercise.
"The report shows a big gap in progress that authorities are making, and people's experiences of the processes and the support they receive from their council varies widely with many reporting 'difficulties'."