Peter Hoskin

A good day to bury good news

A good day to bury good news
Text settings

It's not just the embarrassing and the difficult that will be buried underneath the Wills 'n' Kate coverage tomorrow – some good news will be too. Among it is the coalition's plan to expand the provision of personal budgets. According to the Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow, speaking today, some one million elderly people will be given control of their own personal care budgets, up from 250,000 now.

As I've suggested before, this is a worthwhile idea. Personal budgets promise to be one of the most concrete elements of what the Tories used to call their Post-Bureaucratic Age agenda, but has now been stuck with the Big Society label. The idea is that – instead funding a one-size-doesn't-fit-all* care system administered by local authorities – a budget should be given directly to care patients, so they can spend it on a range of services from charities and private health companies. It ticks most of No.10's favourite boxes: choice, empowerment, responsibility, etc. And, what's more, it seems to work. Evidence suggests that personal budgets go down well with their users, and could well be more cost-effective.

This move won't be without any problems, though. For instance, the evidence also suggests that "it may take more time and support for older people to develop the confidence to assume greater control". And there will no doubt be controversy over fraud, and what the money can and should be spent on. But, like the Gove plans that emerged at the weekend, this is another policy that suggests just how decentralising this government could be.  

*A neat Trevor Kavanagh-ism, which he used to describe the Euro in his Sun column today.