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Involving older people in commissioning: more power to their elbow?

Recent policy initiatives in the UK have sought to encourage more people to take charge ofcommissioning their own personal care. This can mean simply people controlling their own directpayments and individual budgets. However, it can also involve groups of service users in pooling resources or participating in planning.

The extent to which local authorities engage with service users varies. Dorset and Salford were selected for study because they are reputed to be among the more active local authorities in England in this respect and also provide socioeconomic and organisational contrasts. Twelve focus group meetings were conducted in 2007–09, in two stages: one to produce preliminary findings and one to check them against the participants’ understandings. The research team studied the systems and processes in place for engaging with older people, their outcomes and the older people’s perceptions of their involvement and effectiveness.