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How a new law can help you design your own care package

Hannah Maunder

The Self-directed Care (Scotland) Act affects people who receive care from their local authority. Mags MacKenzie from the Scotland service development team explains what it’s all about.

From now on, if you are assessed as needing social care and support you are entitled by law to some choice around how you will get and pay for your care. Local authorities now have a duty to offer cash payments to allow you to hire your own professional carers and assistants.

Why has it changed?

There are around 10,000 people in Scotland who need social care services, and one size does not fit all. Self-directed support (SDS) allows people to decide for themselves how and when they want their care to be given, as long as it aligns with their support plan.

If you need care you can arrange for a carer or personal assistant to come at a time that suits you. SDS also allows people to be more creative in designing their care package, tailoring it to their own individual needs. So, as well as some of the more traditional elements of social care service such as bathing and dressing, people can also choose to have help with recreational activities, such as going to the cinema or volunteering.

How does it work?

If you are assessed as needing care, you will be allocated an Individual Budget, and you can use this budget in the following ways:

  • receive a Direct Payment (cash payment) which allows you to purchase your own care
  • receive care from your local authority (this is the traditional model of care)
  • choose a care provider yourself, but ask your local authority to arrange and manage the service
  • or blend the above three options.

You will be made fully aware of how much your Individual Budget is, and will be involved in monitoring if it is fair and meets your needs.

Is this new? Haven’t Direct Payments been around for ages?

Local authorities have been offering Direct Payments for some time now, but SDS allows for a combination of different methods of care provision.

Is there a catch?

SDS is designed to give people an increased level of control and flexibility in their care planning and delivery, so we believe that it is a good thing.

But there are some important things to bear in mind. If you receive a Direct Payment, you are responsible for how that money is spent and you must show that it has been used to purchase the services and support detailed in your support plan.

Local authorities have a duty to help you understand these responsibilities and decide which of the options available is most suited to you. Information is also available from Self Directed Support in Scotland.

I'm a carer for someone with MS. Will this new law affect me?

As a carer, you are entitled to have an assessment of your own support needs. The new law gives local authorities the right to extend SDS to carers if they provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis, and are assessed as in need of support.

It may also be the case that the budget allocated to the person you care for is increased, so that there is a reduced dependency on you as a carer. For this reason, it's important that care planning is carried out jointly between you and the person you care for.

Do remember that you will also be given an opportunity to discuss your needs privately with your care manager.

> For information on getting a carers' assessment, visit the Carers Trust website or speak to your local Carers' Centre or social work team