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'Personal budget' care switch sends council costs soaring
A controversial switch which put vulnerable people in charge of their own "personal budgets" is contributing to a £10m overspend in Wirral Department for Adult Social Services.
A major shake-up by the Government in 2010 in how councils paid for social care was designed in part to cut costs and reduce bureaucracy while "allowing people to have more choice."
But instead, in many cases in Wirral, it has been found to have cost the council more cash.
The problem lies in how personal budgets are calculated.
Experts use a "pounds per point" method to work out how much each person should have in their personal budget to pay for their care packages.
But unfortunately research shows the calculation often bears little resemblance to how much a service-user actually spends.
The evaluation also highlighted "significant variations" between user groups, with older people spending on average only 76% of their budget while adults with learning disabilities are spending 153%.
A report by DASS director Graham Hodkinson to tonight's health and well-being overview committee says: "It is evident adjustments need to be made to improve the effectiveness of the current method of allocating resources while ensuring the right balance between affordability and meeting service-user needs."
He said the current arrangements "are clearly unsatisfactory" because there is a poor correlation between the personal budgets actually awarded and the calculated budgets.
"The value of budgets exceeds available resources and this is a significant factor in the forecast DASS overspend of £10.2m in 2012-13," he said.
The director warns that failure to establish a "sustainable and robust" approach to the allocation of resources would leave the authority open to legal challenge and unable to implement appropriate budgetary control.