Personal budgets: what are the possibilities?
Personal budgets have been a feature of the SEND reforms from inception, yet national statistics show they are relatively unused. Perhaps the KIDS project has the answer.
There were 1,360 new educational health care (EHC) plans issued in 2014 and 2,765 EHC plans transferred from statements or LDAs between 1 September 2014 and 15 January 2015. Of the EHC plans issued in 2014, 165 had taken up personal budgets, according to recent national statistics. Whilst many see personal budgets as something to be unsure about, and even possibly threatened by, I see them as a really positive opportunity to get more direct, bespoke provision for young people and families. In fact, I am very excited about the possibilities. In order for parents and carers and young people to have more choice and control over the services they use, they have an option of a personal budget as part of the provision in their EHC plan. A personal budget can be delivered in one of four ways:
- Notional budget: in this circumstance the individual/family does not receive the money directly but is allocated a budget and participates fully in the planning and decision making around how the money is spent.
- Actual budget held by a third party: a different organisation holds the money and helps the individual/family decide how best to meet their EHCP outcomes.
- Direct payments: money is transferred directly into the individual’s bank account, which has been opened for the purpose, to meet the identified outcomes.
- Any combination of the above.
Recently, I was thrilled to have been asked to be part of the Strategic Advisory Group for the DfE-funded ‘Making It Personal 3’ (MIP3) project with the charity KIDS. KIDS are looking to build on the successful Making It Personal 2 project (MIP2) in order to deliver MIP3, which will:
- explore innovative solutions to unlock the potential of using funding to develop personal budgets
- improve engagement and understanding of young people with personal budgets
- produce guidance on personal budgets for educational establishments and young people.
The main aims of the project are to:
- identify and stimulate activity around personal budgets and support education providers to identify ways to use their budgets more creatively to personalise opportunities for young people
- produce guidance for schools and colleges including case studies to encourage others to develop thinking and practice beyond existing examples in relation to the use of personal budgets
- bring together groups of disabled young people across 3 localities KIDS to enable them to influence and shape information and guidance on personal budgets.
Overall the project will mobilise and engage the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) to influence the education sector with regard to the implementation of personal budgets. As part of this project the group will work with three schools and colleges and their respective local authorities across the North West, Midlands and the South, and I am delighted to be supporting the North West trials with our families and local authority. In addition, the project will produce guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities which will include 15 case studies, five of which I hope to be part of our North West cohort – indeed I have some families and young people already in mind.
Young people engagement groups
The regional facilitators will set up three young people engagement groups with a minimum of six meetings in the three localities, including young people from hard to reach groups, with a view to producing guidance for young people on personal budgets. Whilst we are currently at the start of the of the project and just about to appoint our regional facilitator, I am very excited about the possibilities to work with our local authority and families in delivering EHCP outcomes through a more personalised approach. Watch out for regular updates in SENCology, including guest posts from those involved as we develop a framework and series of case studies over the year ahead.