By Ann Lloyd, Strategic Commissioner working with three London councils
When Jennifer took the microphone, at first it seemed that she had little to say about Individual Service Funds (ISFs) – ISFs are one way to organise a personal budget. She addressed an audience at an event about ISFs and she talked about what life is like in the UK for an adult with a learning disability. It turns out that her words were 100% relevant to the theme of the conference.
With ISFs the person, family and carers retain the choice and control over the support they need, without having to take on the responsibility of managing the money. The budget goes directly to the care and support provider, who then works directly with the people and their carers to plan the detail of the support.
To help implement the approach, the Social Care Institute for Excellence were commissioned to deliver a provider event with three councils (Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster), along with Helen Sanderson Associates and Think Local Act Personal.
Jennifer works for and is supported by the user-led organisation, People First Lambeth. Jennifer told delegates:
“People can talk to us like we’re stupid and like we’re little teddy bears. We can get depressed and left out of things. We want a life out there; there’s lots of things to do out there like go the gym, art galleries, meetings. We want to do things when we have time to do them but that doesn’t happen much at all. I’m in a yoga group but many others with learning difficulties can’t join a group like that.”
In the three London boroughs, people with learning disabilities tell us that they want to be fully involved in their own plans to look at the things that are really important to them such as:
- Choice and control over things like housing
- Being safe in the community
- Employment opportunities and transport possibilities.
So we genuinely want to see ISFs shaped by what people want and need to have a good life. It signals a changed relationship with providers; it means seeing providers as partners who know people really well. That means there will be certain expectations of providers, for instance that they are creative, trustful, flexible and accountable. It’s really about co-production: thinking about community assets – family, friends and networks that exist for people so that they can build up their skills and relationships.
There will be challenges. When thinking of housing, for instance, there are issues over the cost of land and property, along with making sure that people have genuine choice. But we are now, with providers, planning a more strategic approach to accommodation support for people with learning disabilities.
Let’s leave the last word to Jennifer, who would be the perfect person – along with her carers – to benefit from having choice and control over personal budgets. Jennifer concludes: “We want a good life but the way things are going that isn’t going to happen. We need support to get out there in the big wide world and get on with it. We know what’s best for us because we’ve lived that life already. I’ve been there, done it and bought the T shirt. People don’t understand enough where we’re coming from and what we need and this has to change.”
Find out more about individual service funds on Social Care Institute for Excellence’s website www.bit.ly/scieisf