Individual budgets offer new choices but debate urgently needed says report

New moves towards transferring the purchasing power of the public sector towards individual users of public services are radical and empowering. However a debate is urgently needed on the way these reforms are to be implemented, according to a major new report.

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Dr Catherine Needham
Dr Catherine Needham

Commissioning for personalization: from the fringes to the mainstream, a new report by the PMPA and the Centre for Public Service Partnerships (CPSP@LGiU), authored by Dr Catherine Needham of Queen Mary, University of London; discusses increasing choice by personalising budgets of public service users.

The initiative has strong support across the political spectrum and moves towards eventual implementation are expected to progress under the new coalition Government. In healthcare, there are already plans to tailor health provision around the individual, including personal health budgets, while employment services are increasingly offering personal adviser models and pupil-led approaches to building design and teaching are under development.

As procurement and much of commissioning moves to users of public services, the public sector’s role must become smaller and more strategic – assessing need and allocating money; managing markets; and light touch regulation. This change provides significant opportunities for financial savings. However, there are areas of concern that will also need to be addressed. For example how to deal with a service user who has not spent their ‘payment’ in accordance with their assessed need and consequently has cause to require further access to public services.

John Tizard, Director of the Centre for Public Service Partnerships said: "The move towards individual budgets is unstoppable. However we urgently need a debate on the practical and ethical matters involved, to ensure the new options are truly effective. Public sector commissioners and providers will have to change, in recognition that the citizen is now in the driving seat."

For further information about this report contact Deirdre Noonan at the PMPA, - 0207 543 5679, or visit the PMPA website: