PEOPLE Study – evaluating personalisation and personal budgets

Personalisation: Evaluating Outcomes, Practice and Lived Experience of People using Mental Health Services

You can view and download our toolkits here:

Guides for mental health practitioners:

Considering a Personal Budget: In this guide we talk about who would benefit from a Personal Budget and how to make an application.

Thinking about outcomes: This guide covers support planning for people with severe mental illness.

Supporting your client through the process: This guide advises professionals on what support their clients need throughout the process of getting and managing a Personal Budget.

Working with families: In this guide we highlight some things for professionals to think about when working with families of individuals considering and/or receiving a Personal Budget.

Reviewing a personal budget: This guide describes how reviews work, their potential benefits and common concerns.

Reaching goals and moving on: In this guide we talk about dealing and reaching the end of a Personal Budget.

Guide for families and carers:

Family personal budgets in mental health: This booklet guides carers through the process of considering, getting, managing and reviewing a Personal Budget.

Guides for people using mental health services:

Is a personal budget right for you? This guide helps people to consider whether or not they would benefit from a Personal Budget.

Planning your support: In this guide we cover support planning and deciding what to use the budget for.

Checking your progess:  This guide discusses reviewing a Personal Budget, including why reviews are needed, how they work and how to prepare for them.


1.     What was this research?

The PEOPLE study was a three year project funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by Rethink Mental Illness and the McPin Foundation, in partnership with the University of Birmingham and King’s College London.

The aims of the PEOPLE study were to:

  • Develop an understanding of how personalisation is shaping the lives of people with severe mental illness (SMI)
  • Understand the role of carers and family members in assisting people with SMI to negotiate challenges and opportunities offered by personalisation.
  • Understand how organisations and care staff are adapting to support people with SMI, within personalised models of health and social care

The project has been guided throughout by a group of people with lived experience of mental health problems and with an interest in personalisation. This Lived Experience Advisory Panel has helped us to put together our data collection tools, to recruit people to the study, to gather local intelligence and to analyse our data.

“I’m proud of my personal involvement with the People Study and I know that I have learnt such a lot from the process and from everyone involved in the study. I have found it to be very rewarding and the journey has been an interesting one. I’m really fascinated by research processes and have a healthy respect for the amount of work that goes into putting together innovative research.”  Shirley Dean, All Together Positive


2.     Why is this research important?

Personal budgets are being rolled out across the country with various degrees of success. The People Study focused on the impact of personalisation for people with a severe mental illness (SMI), a group which has received less attention than others in the implementation and evaluation of Personal Budgets and personalised care. People using mental health services can benefit from a greater choice and control over the support they receive from local authorities.  Personalisation enables care co-ordinators to work with their clients in a person-centred way and allows the clients to have a lead role in support planning.

We used the findings from our research to develop three practical resources providing guidance to people who might be receiving or considering receiving a personal budget, their family members and mental health professionals.

The PEOPLE study was important and timely as it was the first to focus on people with severe mental health problems and the challenges in making sure that the positives of personalisation reach them too. It is ground breaking in making sure that research findings are relevant to people’s lives and professional practice – rather than being the type of research that just sits on a shelf – or in the inbox. Lastly the study has been one of the first to involve groups of people with mental health problems from the start and their views and experiences have helped shape the study and its outputs.” Professor Jill Manthorpe, King’s College London

3.     What did we do?

The project used a longitudinal case study approach based in four local authorities. The research was carried out over two main phases.

In the first phase, we used a combination of observation and interviews with 58 key stakeholders, including representatives from the local authorities, the mental health trusts and third sector organisations. This phase explored the main challenges and facilitators to implementation of Personalisation for severe mental illness.

Phase two consisted of in-depth interviews with three groups: people using mental health services, family members and care staff.

–        We interviewed 54 service users up to three times over the course of a year to provide a longitudinal perspective. All service user participants had either received, were in the process for receiving, or had been declined Personal Budgets or Direct Payments.

–        We interviewed 20 family members and informal carers about their experiences of supporting someone with severe mental illness who received a Personal Budget.

–        We interviewed 30 key workers about their experiences of and views on Personal Budgets for their clients.

“Interviewing different groups of people with a stake in personalisation allowed us to build a thorough understanding of the key issues and complexities from various perspectives. Being able to follow our participants’ journeys through longitudinal interviews was extremely rewarding and provided a unique perspective on individual experiences.” – Paulina Szymczynska

Click here to hear our participants’ stories told with their own words by an actor:

4.     What is the current status of the project?

We have now completed the study and are working on several academic papers presenting our findings.

5.     What next?

We will present our findings to different audiences, including people using services, their families and practitioners through presentations, reports, blog posts and peer-reviewed papers.

6.     Who do I contact for more information?

You can contact the team via