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For Alexander it has meant that he can take part in his hobby, Alexander has a real passion for World War Two and is a fanatical World War Two re-enactor and member of several living history groups. I used to have to take Alex every weekend and he knew it wasn’t really my thing, he would hide behind me and I knew that I was being a barrier, but now his personal budget helps go towards a PA to take him to these re-enactments. They are often over night so while Alexander pays for all his own costs, the personal budget goes towards the expenses that his personal assistant will have, such as hotel bills. Without the personal budget he wouldn’t be able to go to the re-enactments, although when his PA was unwell recently other members of the group offered to support him so he could join them on a weekend event, although Alex chose to come home early it was still a huge and successful step.
Before he started re-enacting Alexander didn’t have a particular focus in life, since going to re-enactments his interest has encouraged him in so many ways. For example, it has given him the desire to learn to read and write and spurred him on academically and without me there for him to cling to his confidence has blossomed.
It also means that while Alexander is away I have the opportunity to have a bit of a life myself and I can recharge my batteries ready to listen to all the intricate details about his weekend. That gives me the strength to go on during the week as well and helps makes life liveable.
It’s not easy for Alexander doing a lot of the things that he does but his hobby really pushes Alex out of his comfort zone and has given him so much more self belief. Now when he goes to re-enactments his personal assistant is often just in the background while Alexander is the one that takes over. That would never have happened previously and he really feels part of a community now. The only frustration I have had has been the lack of imagination used by my local authority; we asked if we could use £500 of Alex’s direct payment to do up a camper van so that when he goes to re enactments he and his PA could stay in it rather than using hotels and guest houses. This would have saved hundreds of pounds in accommodation costs, but, the local authority said no, it made no sense to me, having a camper van would have been a win-win situation somewhere familiar to Alexander and saving money. The issue of lack of imagination was also reflected in the recent national personalization survey (POET) and discussed at the personalization summit, as many other people are having similar issues. Local authorities need to start to think out of the box more readily and address their control issues. The solution to many of the issues around personalization has got to be a massive culture change within local authority staff and co-production, working with people who use services and their carers to design and deliver services and personal budgets thus avoiding services that no one wants or needs. Personal budgets have had a really positive impact on our lives and I know that they can make a difference to many other lives too.