Individual Budgets are the current government buzzword and it looks highly likely that they will be the successor to Direct Payments. The idea of Individual Budgets is that they will be a way of pulling together various different sources of funding under one umbrella. Therefore Individual Budgets may consist of Direct Payments funding, Independent Living Fund money, Access to Work funding, Supporting People funding, as well as the Disabled Facilities Grant and funding for equipment.
This one budget will then allow Disabled People to use the money in a way that best suits their own needs and situation. Disabled People will also receive support to plan what they want and how they wish to organise it, from a broker or advocate, family or friends. The Government chose 13 local authorities around the country to pilot Individual Budgets and depending on the results of the pilots, the scheme is likely to be extended.
Alan Milburn, former Health Secretary, has however strongly indicated that some Disabled People may be able to receive health funding as part of their Individual Budget in the future. This move would be welcomed by many Disabled People who may have long term health needs as at present there seems to be a ‘grey area’ as to whether people can receive Direct Payments to meet long term health needs. A few years ago, there were many cases where funding for health needs could be transferred from the NHS to Social Services and then Social Services would then pay the Disabled Person the money as part of their Direct Payments. This has become less common in recent years.
Alan Milburn said “The Department of Health is currently piloting individual budgets for a wider range of services…Health care is not yet included. I believe it should be for patients whose care needs already entitle them to receive a direct payment for social care. Otherwise we miss the opportunity of genuinely integrating care into the patient’s point of view.”
This would be a major step forward as most Disabled People find the distinction between ‘health’ and ‘social care’ needs both arbitary and unhelpful. As more and more health care is being delivered in people’s own home, it makes sense for people to choose when and how their ‘health’ needs are addressed, in the same way that Disabled People can choose when and how their ‘social care’ needs are addressed using Direct Payments.