Striving for Self-directed Care

Monday 17th June 2019

Getting Self-directed Support right “enables disabled people to have the same freedom, choice and control in their lives as anyone else, to do the ordinary everyday things that non-disabled people can take for granted… To have a dignified life and not just an existence,” says Chris Baird, a disability activist, addressing the Health and Social Care Scotland Alliance (the ALLIANCE) conference.

Having been involved as a peer researcher since 2016 when he started contributing to research into how adapted social housing is allocated, Mr Baird is emphatic about the “transformative” effect Self-directed Support (SDS) can have.

SDS is a form of social care where the person being cared for has more choice and control over how their care is organised and who provides it. In some cases, people take control of their own budget.

A recent Scottish Government evaluation of SDS emphasised the importance of good communication between service providers and users to give individuals as much autonomy as possible when it came to their care.

A new plan to improve the way social care support is delivered was also launched recently by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, which says social care must ‘fit around the person’ and promises ‘to fully implement Self-directed Support’ while recognising the challenges that must be overcome.

Meanwhile, a co-production research project – titled 'My Support, My Choice' – undertaken by the ALLIANCE and Self Directed Support Scotland, has heard from hundreds of individuals who currently use or have been assessed for SDS.

Face-to-face interviews, focus groups and a national survey reaching thousands of people have informed the research project that Dr Hannah Tweed, a senior policy officer at the ALLIANCE, is involved in, making it the most comprehensive research project of its kind.

Survey responses are still being gathered and research reports are due in the coming months that will provide opportunity for Scottish Government, local authorities and third sector partners to learn from the experiences of the real people who use SDS.

There is growing consensus that this type of peer research Mr Baird has been involved in often sees participants open up and be more honest in their responses, giving more accurate data.

“There is increasing recognition of the value of peer research,” he states, “and an important aspect of this is the shared understanding of lived experience and common language that can help research interviewees to say what they really think.”

Mr Baird reflects: “An individual assessment of need should be just that – it is based on the premise that each person is unique, as are their needs for social care and the cost of meeting them.

“Yet, often the way SDS is being implemented is working against this principle, making assessments more prescriptive, resource-led and using eligibility criteria to reduce access to social care.”

Participants at the ALLIANCE’s conference workshop raised similar concerns.

There were calls for service users to have greater access to independent support to help them navigate the application process, particularly to avoid people being hit with a ‘double charge’ if they were assessed to receive a lower level of SDS and found themselves paying for further support.

I look forward to the findings from My Support, My Choice research project,” adds Mr Baird, “and hope the recommendations based on people’s experiences help improve policy and practice, and make positive changes to how social care and Self-directed Support are delivered in Scotland.”

 

Pictured: Chris Baird