A Personal Budget is a sum of money allocated to you as a result of an assessment of your needs. The amount of money you are awarded is based on the ‘eligible needs’ you have at that time. Eligible needs are those which the local council’s policy says it has a duty to support you with.
To start with you are given an ‘indicative budget’ (an estimated budget) so that you can develop a support plan, with help from others as necessary, based around what matters to you and what works for you. This gives you the chance to have more control over how your support is provided.
A Personal Budget is not in addition to mental health services and support, but a different way of making the ‘social care’ element of the funding for them available. By April 2013, all councils should be offering offer Personal Budgets to all those who are eligible to receive support, including people with mental health needs.
Why have Personal Budgets been introduced?
Personal budgets were introduced in 2008 as part of a new process to give people greater control over the way they receive their support. This is usually called Self-Directed Support and is one aspect of the changing approach to meeting citizens needs called ‘personalisation’. Personalisation intends to ensure that:
- people are able to be a part of their community
- good advice and guidance is available to everyone
- services are in place to help prevent crisis and sort out difficulties at an early stage
- where people require longer-term support, it is designed and delivered with them to meet their individual needs and preferences, which is where Personal Budgets come in.
What can I use a Personal Budget for?
You can use a Personal Budget in a variety of ways, but what you use it for must be directly related to meeting your ‘eligible needs’ for social care. Some of the ways in which people have chosen to use their Personal Budgets are:
- getting help with cooking, shopping and cleaning
- having short breaks or a holiday
- leisure activities, e.g. an art class or a walking group
- having driving lessons
- buying specialist or computer equipment to make life easier
- buying membership of a gym or sports club
- finding a job or learning new skills
- having an aromatherapy massage or other alternative therapy
Personal Budgets are supposed to give you give you more flexibility than Direct Payments as you can spend your budget more creatively on the things that you need to live on an independent lifestyle. Do bear in mind though that a Personal Budget cannot be used:
- for anything that is not directly related to meeting your eligible social care needs
- for things which the local council has prohibited. These vary, but generally include gambling, debt repayment, alcohol and tobacco, anything which is illegal, and anything which will cause harm to yourself or other people
- to meet needs in ways which are solely the responsibility of the NHS, such as the provision of medication.