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A Commissioners' Guide to Individual Service Funds

Author: Chris Watson

Simon Duffy writes in the Summary to the paper:

I developed the concept of an Individual Service Fund (ISF) in 1996 when I was setting up Inclusion Glasgow. We discovered it was a powerful tool to help people build a life of citizenship. Later, while running In Control, I proposed the use of ISFs as a way to help people manage their personal budgets without taking on all the responsibilities of direct payments, and this idea was then adopted by both the Care Act in England and the Self-Directed Support Act in Scotland (where it was called Option 2).

However this idea has been slow to catch on in practice. While writing the best practice guidance for the Care Act I discovered that very few local authorities offered people ISFs and, even if they did, they had completely misunderstood their purpose. Too often they were adding complexity instead of reducing it. This was all quite disappointing and I feared that a potentially powerful innovation had simply been abandoned.

But I was lucky enough to discover that Chris Watson, the author of this guide, had been working away in Dorset to implement ISFs with both rigour and integrity. He had managed to work with his colleagues to avoid the traps and pits into which so many others had fallen. He realised that ISFs were a gift for people and families - but also a gift for enlightened commissioners.

Working with the Centre for Welfare Reform and Citizen Network, Chris has managed to increase the uptake of ISFs across England. This guide is an introduction for commissioners which will help them create systems that will transform people’s experience of health and social care. Putting people in control of their lives and helping people shape their own support is a basic human rights requirement. ISFs make this a realistic possibility for everyone.

Read and download the free pdf in your browser here.

The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

A Commissioners' Guide to Individual Service Funds © Chris Watson 2020.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.



Chris Watson

Chris Watson


Individual Service Funds (ISFs) Guide

Individual Service Funds (ISFs) Guide

This guide, written by Sam Smith and Frances Brown, shares decades of experience in using Individual Service Funds (ISFs) to provide personalised support.

Individual Service Funds (ISFs) Easy Read

Individual Service Funds Easy Read

This Easy Read guide explains how Individual Service Funds (ISFs) let people manage a personal budget without needing to use direct payments.

Calderdale's Guide to Individual Service Funds (ISFs)

Calderdale's Guide to ISFs

Calderdale Council have produced a guide for Individual Service Funds (ISFs) which describes their benefits to citizens in clear and accessible English.

Personalised Support

Personalised Support

A report describing how to provide support to people with the most complex needs or challenging behaviour drawing on the work of Partners for Inclusion.

Better Lives

Better Lives

An Evaluation of the Choice Support Personalisation Programme for Adults with Learning Difficulties in Southwark.

Individual Service Funds (ISFs) in Dorset

Individual Service Funds (ISFs) Dorset

Dorset have established a ground-breaking commissioning strategy enabling people with learning disabilities & mental health problems to manage their personal budgets.

Individual Service Fund (ISFs) Agreement

Individual Service Fund Agreement

This Individual Service Fund (ISF) Agreement describes the contract between the person and the community service that they choose to manage their budget.

Individual Service Funds (ISFs) in Context

Individual Service Funds ISFs in Context

An overview of the development of Individual Service Funds (ISFs) - what they are and how they are developing

Map of ISFs in England

Map of ISFs in England

Map showing progress on Individual Service Funds (ISFs) in the country.

Demystifiying Individual Service Funds (ISFs)

Demystifiying Individual Service Funds

These slides summarise guidance on the use of Individual Service Funds (ISFs) and the future of commissioning for health and social care.

Trying Out Individual Service Funds (ISFs)

Trying Out Individual Service Funds

Self-Directed Futures has been working alongside colleagues from Bristol City Council (BCC) commissioning team to develop their Individual Service Fund offer.

SDS Network: Individual Service Funds (ISFs)

SDS Network: ISFs

Chris Watson of Self Directed Futures and Gary Kent of New Key and Jacqui Hendra of Devon County Council on ISFs.

Supporting and Developing the Workforce for ISFs

Supporting and Developing the Workforce

This guide from Skills for Care was developed over several months by the South West Individual Service Fund Network and several Fellows of the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Unlocking the Imagination

Unlocking the Imagination

Simon Duffy's book first published in 1996 now updated, offers a path for commissioners who want to create the conditions for citizenship and stronger communities for everyone.