Social workers have traditionally shown little interest in thinking about financial matters except, perhaps, about welfare benefits. The cost of care has been a concern of planners and senior managers, but not of individual practitioners. Community care has changed all this. The introduction of a market for care services has meant that services, even the social worker’s own time, have to be costed and assessed for valuefor-money. Choice between different options in a care package may be influenced by cost as well as by other qualitative differences between services. This is especially so if demand for a given service such as domiciliary care exceeds supply. Social workers who are care managers in charge of a budget will themselves have to cost packages of care, and prioritise their caseloads within the limits of their total budget. Identifying implications of the cost of purchasing services for an individual on the total budget available for the caseload is put forward by CCETSW (1995) as a relevant example from practice in meeting the practice requirement ‘contribute to planning, monitoring and control of resources’ within the core competence ‘intervene and provide services’. This is a formal acknowledgement of how the social work task has changed to incorporate responsibility for financial issues. This chapter will examine the policy context of charging for services and will analyse the impact of that policy upon the social worker/service user relationship. The social worker’s role in enabling service users to manage their personal finances is also explored through an examination of welfare benefits, direct payments and legal devices such as powers of attorney and receivership in the Court of Protection.
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