Health Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled a “ground-breaking” agreement between central and local government to overhaul social care services, under the banner Putting People First.

The government has pledged £520 million of ring-fenced funding to help transform social care primarily through the introduction of personal care budgets, enabling those in need to choose the support services they want for themselves or a family member.

Amongst the specific plans for the transformation of services, the government has also promised a greater focus on keeping older people healthy, as well as closer collaboration between the National Health Service and local government to help people receive more coordinated and efficient support in the community.

The promised funds, which should help to support councils in redesigning and reshaping their systems, includes cash from the NHS, in recognition of the positive impact early intervention can have on the demand for healthcare, the Department of Health explained.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the move as “putting real control into the hands of those in care and their carers, leading to far more personal and responsive care."

And Johnson added: “This is a groundbreaking concordat because it is the first ever attempt by Central Government to co-produce a major Public Service reform in this case with local government, the NHS, people who use services and their carers.”

"Our commitment that the majority of social care funding will be controlled by individuals, through personal budgets, represents a radical transfer of power from the state to the public. Everyone, irrespective of their illness or disability has the right to self determinations and maximum control over their own lives."

Plans for green paper
The government has already announced plans to produce a green paper on the long-term reform of social care funds, and Sir Simon Milton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said he was pleased that it has been recognised that change comes at a price. “The new grant for social work reform will go some way to enable councils to move towards a more personalised and preventative system of care,” he added.

“This is a huge step forward, which should bring significant benefits for older people”, agreed Paul Cann, Director of Policy and External Relations at Help the Aged. “However,” he warned, “no one should under-estimate the culture change required within the social care system if self-directed care is to truly succeed. The Concordat must deliver change quickly.”