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Can personal budgets empower persons with disabilities and their families?

Recently COFACE Families Europe joined the discussion with European partners on what is the best way to finance the social services that families might need when they have a member with a disability.

The working session, then turned into a webinar, was organised by the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities, which works with COFACE Families Europe in several alliances, to facilitate the independent living of persons with disabilities with support in the community and to change the way social services are provided thanks to the involvement of persons with disabilities and their families.

The aim of the day was to look at the main existing funding systems: public procurement, reserved markets, personal budgets and private investment and see which of them better ensures the respect of the rights of persons with disabilities. In other words, participants discussed if and how different funding models could enable the provision of services that are person-centered, empowering, continuous over time, equal and accessible, efficient, open to innovation, integrated and transparent.

COFACE was involved in the panel on personal budgets, one of the 45 key actions mentioned in our SHIFT guide as way to empower persons with disabilities and their families.

Personal budgets are a relatively new form of funding, which is being tested in pilot projects in Sweden, the Netherlands, UK (England and Scotland), and in the region of Flanders in Belgium.
The Personal budgets are part of the demands of the disability movement to give persons with support needs and their parents and carers full choice and control on the support they receive. It consists in giving persons with disabilities and carers a budget that they can use for different services including personal assistance, baby-sitting, home support, and personal care.

An interesting aspect of personal budgets is that they can enable people to continue living in their own home, instead of moving to residential facilities. Parents of children with disabilities and family carers can also be the recipients of these budgets, allowing thus an economic compensation for their care work. Older people can receive different forms of home support, adapting to new needs. Adults and young people with disabilities can hire personal assistants and thus participate in events and social activities.

Those who used personal budgets are generally happy about this form of funding. They report an improvement in their quality of life, a development of social skills and creativity, social networks, confidence, self-image and identity.

Families and persons in need of support should not be left alone in the process of assessing, choosing and paying for the service. Personal budget holders need protection, guidance and clear information and help with assessment and planning. Knowledgeable staff should guide the process. The State can create platforms and act as employer, providing workers with social protection and rights, and families with easy-to-use platforms.

Personal budgets are a system used by a minority of people in Europe today and they will probably remain for some time one of different forms of service funding. Nonetheless, starting discussing and testing this form of funding shifts the focus of the debate in the right direction: how to design systems of support that meet the choice and will of the persons in need of support and of their family members.

You can find out more on this and on the pros and cons of the other forms of funding services by watching the recording of the webinar.


For more information, please contact Irene Bertana: ibertana@coface-eu.org

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