The “choice” agenda is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is firmly established amongst most sections of opinion – in the Conservative Government, and in the main political parties, with the exception of some on the left of the Labour party.
In 2005, Tony Blair claimed that consumer choice is both good in itself and a means of chivvying under-performing services to do better. Direct Payments brought in by Labour. extended by the Coalition Government and still continuing, benefit the better off, more articulate and persuasive people who are cared for together with their carers: they are better able to “play the assessment game” to their own advantage. Poorer, less articulate people are less assertive in securing assessments of their needs and Direct Payments. To the extent that they do get them, disadvantaged and vulnerable people are more likely to accept what they are offered passively, and accordingly, to be assessed generally as needing smaller Direct Payments relative to their needs. There is far less reason to suspect bias in favour of the better off in relation to Local Authority provided free respite services.
In 2005, a National Consumer Council Report made the absurd statement “In recommending the extension of the principle of choice, we are acutely aware that regulation will often be necessary to ensure that disadvantaged consumers have access to services, can question and challenge professionals and seek redress when things go wrong.” An important concern is that relatively prosperous more articulate and persuasive people are far more willing and able to “question and challenge professionals and seek redress when things go wrong”.
NO CONCEIVABLE REGULATIONS COULD STOP DIRECT PAYMENTS ACTING AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF POOR, RELATIVELY INARTICULATE CARERS.