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Research shows impact of ISFs


A new report - Better Lives - demonstrates the value of trusting service providers to work more flexibly by enabling them to use personal budgets more creatively in partnership with the people they work for.

Independent research by the Bucks New University Social and Health Evaluation Unit has demonstrated the significant advantages and efficiencies that arise when commissioners enable service providers to work more flexibly. The research found that the service provider, Choice Support, saw a major cut in funding (30% over 4 years) yet despite this they were able to provide improvements in support and outcomes for the vast majority of people served.

The majority of the staff involved, from within the service provider and social services describe the new process as the most significant experience of their working lives.

The report contains full details of:

  • Significant savings achieved
  • Improvements in outcomes and citizenship
  • Benefits for staff and social workers
  • Human stories and case studies

As the lead author of the report, Professor Roger Ellis OBE said:

“There is no doubt that the Personalisation Programme introduced by Choice Support in partnership with the London Borough of Southwark can be judged a success. For the majority of the 70 individuals the introduction of Individual Service Funds (ISFs) linked with personalised support plans has improved their quality of life. This has been achieved with a substantial net saving over the previous block grant scheme. There have been no increased risks that we could find and both staff and relatives have a generally positive view of the Programme and its impact on individuals.”

Dr Simon Duffy, who invented the concept of an Individual Service Funds (ISF) said:

“Choice Support and Southwark Council are to be congratulated. They have demonstrated the enormous potential of a more flexible and trusting way of working. It’s time to step away from old models of contracting, procurement, tendering and top-down control. Instead we must focus on the individual, on what they really need, so that we can enable families, friends and professionals to work with them to achieve citizenship and control. Hopefully this report will mark the beginning of a sea change in social care in England: the end of an era of organisational mistrust and increased centralisation; the start of a greater focus on citizenship and community, with greater faith in the integrity of civil society to lead positive change from the grassroots up.”

The report raises important questions about the future of commissioning and whether it is time to end the era of competitive tendering and move to a more collaborative and trusting approach, which recognises the fundamental human right of disabled people to shape their own lives.

Download the free pdf or read the report online here:


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