Council defends position on care budgets

Sarah HallNorfolk County Council have defended their efforts to tell people about the controversial switch to giving people control over budgets for their social care - after a disability charity criticised the authority.Sarah Hall

Norfolk County Council has defended its efforts to tell people about the controversial switch to giving people control over budgets for their social care - after a disability charity criticised the authority.

A massive shake-up in social care funding is just a year away, with personal budgets set to be introduced giving people the choice of what to spend the money on.

The money will be paid to eligible people whose disability, age-related condition or chronic illness seriously affects their independence and quality of life and they can use it to get any kind of care or service which will have the most benefit to their wellbeing.

Disabled charity Livability launched a survey into what councils were doing to publicise the opportunity to switch to those budgets.

The review included a national survey of over 500 disabled people, a mystery shopper exercise and an audit of local authority websites.

Livability's mystery shopper contacted 103 local authorities, including Norfolk County Council, which was ranked joint 24th in the national results table.

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The county council was given the maximum 10 out of 10 for when the mystery caller inquired over the telephone, but the charity said it was unable to find information about personal budgets for disabled people on the authority's website.

However, the county council does have a section all about the budgets on its website and said it was working hard to promote them.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, said: "We have done a lot of work recently to promote personal budgets. In particular we launched a DVD which features inspirational stories from Norfolk people already enjoying the benefits of personal budgets.

"Personal budgets are proving very popular with the people who have taken them up, giving them the chance to think differently and choose different activities which meet their needs."

Mary Bishop, chief executive of Livability, said: "The results of our research are extremely worrying. Individual budgets have the potential to transform the lives of disabled people by giving them choice and control and yet awareness of them is woefully inadequate."

�Do you have a story about a local council? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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