At United Response we are firmly in favour of personal budgets and self directed support as a way of giving people genuine choice and control.

We have always focused on support that is tailored to each individual as absolutely key to the way we work and we see self direction and personal budgets as a natural progression of this.

For those who do have a personal budget, there are many remarkable stories of people seizing control of their own lives and being creative with the way that they structure their support. But we know from our work just how much confusion there is amongst potential purchasers of services and their families in moving to this new world. Many people have told us they are afraid of the responsibility of managing a budget directly.

So, to help to bridge this gap and to debunk some of the myths around personalisation, we have been very pleased to be working with the Voluntary Organisation’s Disability Group (VODG) to create a “Top Ten Tips” guide for anyone who needs to buy social care support for themselves or a friend or relative. The guide was launched today, as a blog entry on the VODG website.

The guide aims to help you learn what to look for when choosing a support provider and the questions to ask in developing and paying for the support you need. We really hope that it will give people the confidence to question and to choose the support that is right for them and their loved ones.

Ten top tips

  1. Think about how you want to be supported. Do you want a support worker or a personal assistant (PA)? Will you employ them through an agency or directly?

  2. Note your first impressions. Initial conversations with your support provider will be a good indication of future relationships. Does the provider do what they promised? Did they get back to you when they said, or can you get hold of them when they say you can?

  3. Check how they will develop your support package. Your support provider should spend time getting to know you, to find out about your needs and wishes. They should develop a person centred plan with you and you should receive a contract that sets out your support.

  4. Check how your support will be monitored – and changed. Your support provider should carry out a review of your support - sometimes called a “person-centred review” annually, and this should be led by you.

  5. Check the price and what it includes. Your support provider should confirm a price that will not change after you and they have signed the contact, unless by mutual agreement.

  6. Check the staff who will be supporting you. Your support provider should arrange quality staff that will support you based on your individual needs.

  7. Check how they will make sure you are safe and supported properly. Check your provider is registered with the appropriate regulator and what other quality tests they carry out.

  8. Check your right to complain. Who do you contact if things go wrong?

  9. Check how you can end your agreement. Find out what notice period is required and any ‘exit fees’ such as staff salaries or other costs.

  10. Find out more. There’s lots more information below. And learn some terminology (see the jargon buster section in the full Top Ten Tips guide) as care and support can include lots of jargon.

Download the full Top Ten Tips guide as a PDF

Diane Lightfoot, director of communications and fundraising.