News and Comment

How do Personal Budgets impact on the friends and family of those who use them?

Tuesday 16 October 2012

At OPM we’ve been working in partnership with ecdp and Essex County Council on a three year research project to explore the impact of Personal Budgets on service users in Essex. One of the key findings of this study has been the huge variety of benefits we’ve seen Personal Budgets enabling service users to access. These benefits range from a greater sense of empowerment and self esteem, to access to better quality, flexible and consistent care. However, an equally interesting finding from the research is the ways which Personal Budgets have been shown to have a positive impact on the friends and families of service users.

We’ve observed how Personal Budgets can play a big role in improving the emotional well being of service users’ family members. Many family members reported how the care and support they purchased through Personal Budgets has eased their caring responsibilities and given them much needed time to themselves during their daily lives. They described how they are now able to live fuller lives, by, for example, taking part in leisure activities, socialising with friends or just simply running errands. Some have even been able to plan holidays and go back to part-time work. The husband of one service user told us how he had become depressed after his wife became disabled and the care purchased through the budget has improved his well being: “It’s made a big difference, in my health for a start. The sense that not being alone anymore has been a god send to me, my health, and being able to actually go out on my own without having to worry, stress…. And man is that nice!”

We also found that service users’ family members were keen to stress the ‘peace of mind’ that being on a Personal Budget brought. For some, this was a result of knowing that their relatives are happy with the care they are receiving or taking part in activities which they enjoy. For others, it came from the lesser financial burden they’ve experienced as a result of the support and care they have been able to buy with Personal Budgets. One family member told us: “From my point of view it gives me peace of mind, because I don’t have to wonder how I could finance it.”

These findings highlight the potential of Personal Budgets to transform the lives of service users’ families. However, as with every new system, there are still improvements which could be made, especially in processes such as needs assessments, reviews and financial approval. In practice this means family members are sometimes left with an additional burden of care and are unable to book or take any respite, particularly when they are really in need of a break. Similarly, gaps in the local market can also make it difficult for family members to find providers that are able to deliver the appropriate support or care their relatives require and some family members told us how frustrating and stressful it is to experiment with different service suppliers.

Overall though, the family members of service users were on very positive about the impact Personal Budgets have had on their lives already. This is especially encouraging given that it is still a social care system in its infancy. And at OPM we remain committed to observing the way in which this system changes the lives of service users and their families in the future.

This is the first in a series of posts and video case studies that we will release over the next few days, leading up to the publication of the full report next week. If you would like to speak to us about Personal Budgets or any of the issues raised in this post, please contact us at