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Below, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about Self-Directed Support.

Self-Directed Support (SDS) allows people to choose how their support is provided, and gives them as much control as they want of their individual budget. Put simply, SDS is the support a person purchases or arranges, to meet agreed health and social care outcomes. SDS includes offers a number of options for getting support. The person’s individual (or personal) budget can be: taken as a Direct Payment (a cash payment) allocated to a provider the individual chooses (sometimes called an individual service fund, where the council or funder, holds the budget, but the person is in charge of how it is spent) or the council can arrange a service. Individuals can choose a mixture of all 3 for different types of support.

They shouldn’t be. But the way of calculating the amount may be changing.

In Scotland, under the current law, people can have a direct payment where they are assessed as needing a community care service. There are a few exclusions. People who are eligible for support, for their social care or health and social care, can direct their own support. There are some limited circumstances where SDS and your council will be able to tell you about these.

It isn’t. Children in need of support, older people – people who need social support – can access SDS 

Self-Directed Support is not for everyone and many people are completely satisfied with receiving services that are arranged by their local authority. However there are a lot of people who could really benefit from having choice and control over the support they receive, such as having support staff visit them at times of their choosing or enjoying the consistency of care that can come from employing your own personal assistants or even the flexibility of using your budget to purchase services that meet your needs more creatively and individually than the services provided by the local authority.To find out more about the benefits of SDS read the Scottish Governments 2007 Review of Self-directed Support. 

Yes. These persons can consent on behalf of someone, if the client evidently lacks capacity. The Council would have to conclude, in its assessment, that the person with assessed need has, after every attempt to support them, no capacity to make a decision to receive Self-Directed Support.

If you already get support, your next review of your support plan should give you time the opportunity to think about SDS. If you don’t already get support, get in touch with your local council to ask about support you may be eligible for.

As part of the assessment -or review – of your support needs you will be asked to think about the outcomes that are important to you. This might be through completing a supported self-assessment or self-evaluation questionnaire.You will have a discussion about whether you can manage SDS and what kinds of support you need to be able to do this. You must have arrangements in place to manage the necessary paperwork, either alone or with help. Help is available from your local support service. You will also need to satisfy the council that the support which you intend to buy will meet your agreed outcomes. For disabled children, the council must be satisfied that the services bought will safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.In addition, if you plan to employ staff, you will need to show that you will meet your legal requirements as an employer.

No-one needs to take control of their budget if they don’t want to. SDS allows everybody to choose the way their support is provided but no particular option should be imposed on anyone.

People using SDS can get support to help make their choices from a local support organisation, which can help with a range of issues, such general employment practice, payroll or peer support.

SDS is first of all about giving people a better life. It is about supporting people to think how they could lead their lives and giving them the chance to control that.

If you think the money you are offered is not enough, you do not have to accept it. You can dispute the amount offered. You will need to discuss with your council what will happen while your complaint is being worked on. You can accept the individual budget if you want, while your complaint is being dealt with. If you do not want to do this while your complaint is being considered, you can choose to get arranged services instead. 

There is no new money for SDS. If SDS could only happen when large amounts of new funding become available, it is unlikely that it would happen at all. So the money will come from that which social services are already spending on social care. However, a better focus on outcomes should also help people identify and use other sources of funding (Benefits, Employment, Community Services, Health, Education and grants).

It is possible for people to direct their own support without new monies being found. Experience in other countries shows that, for the amounts of money people would have got anyway, they can create supports which suit them better.

SDS isn’t cheaper, but it can be more creative and make better use of the money available, so that someone gets more for their money.

Self-directed support offers you much more flexibility, but managing it is also a responsibility. An important part of SDS is that a person can take on as much or as little responsibility they want depending on the options they choose. You can get the help and support you. Your local support service is usually the first point of contact for this.

Yes – Parents of, or those with parental responsibility for, children under 16 (or in some circumstances under 18). Guardians/Attorneys of adults over 16 and certain persons included by Scottish Government guidance (this would include members of circles of support, user-controlled trusts, independent living trusts or certain individuals providing assistance), all at council discretion.

You will need to discuss with your council what kinds of changes need to be agreed in advance, and the kind of changes you can make on your own without asking.

You can make arrangements yourself and employ your own staff and they will report directly to you. Or you can buy services from an agency, a private service provider or voluntary organisation. Some people have a contract with a service provider to provide any emergency cover they may need should any problems arise.

Yes, you can buy services from any council provided it agrees to sell its services to you.

Yes, respite is a short break which is to act as a positive experience for the person with support needs and the carer, where there is one. The term includes a wide range of different services of limited duration. The common factor is not what service is provided, but its purpose. Respite can be offered in a wide variety of settings, including breaks in residential homes, respite-only units (e.g. specialist guest houses), breaks in the home of another individual or family who have been specially recruited, breaks at home through a support worker or sitting service, or holiday type breaks.

Yes, if you are aged 65 or over and wish to use Self-Directed Support to buy personal care services at home you will not be asked to pay part of the cost of these services.

To receive any service from your council you will be assessed financially (means tested) to see whether you should contribute some money to help pay for it. Your council will charge you in the same way that it charges people it provides arranged services to.

Not necessarily. If you move to another council you will be asked to complete an assessment. Each council will assess your level of support in the local community care context, and may therefore ask for a different level of contribution or offer a different level of support. If you are not happy with your payment see question below.

You will be accountable. The Support Plan and the Individual Contract together say what you agree to do with the money – they form a contract. Any big changes must be agreed with the council.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act it is illegal for banks to refuse to open an account for someone because they have a disability. However, someone must be able to understand what the account is for. If they can’t, someone else – a representative or a trust – can open the account or they can have a joint account.

Receiving money for support does not affect benefits.

The money you get for support is the same if you are working or not working.

There is no guarantee that any kind of support will work for someone. This is no different with Self-Directed Support. But, there is a lot of flexibility with Self-Directed Support, so you can make big changes. If having this kind of control really doesn’t suit someone, they can use the ordinary council arrangements of care planning and commissioning

There are some circumstances which allow a council to withhold self-directed support. If a person is assessed as not requiring any social care services then they cannot receive self-directed support. A small number of individuals may also be excluded because, for example, they are subject to certain criminal justice orders. Your social worker will be able to tell you whether your circumstances exclude you from self-directed support. A council may also may not allow you to purchase services from your preferred provider if they believe the provider will not meet your health and social care needs. In the case of direct payments a council may withhold payment if they suspect the recipient of financial mismanagement. Currently, the council may also withhold a direct payment if the person is unable to consent (due to mental incapacity) to having a direct payment and they do not have a guardian or attorney in place who can consent on their behalf.

If you are not happy with any action, decision or apparent failing of the local council you should use the local council complaint procedure. You may find that an independent mediator can help solve the difficulty. If this is not successful then you can go to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who will look into your complain independently. If you are not happy with the service being provided you should inform your social worker and complain to the provider or personal assistant involved. If the service is registered a complaint can be made to the Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCWIS). Local support services can provide information and advice about how to conduct a complaint.

Every Local Authority has a budget to provide social care to the individuals in their locality who need it most and they must ensure that this budget is administered fairly. The Scottish Governments guidance on Self-directed Support states that local authorities must be sure that the resources they allocate to a person are sufficient to meet their assessed needs. When delivering social care services local authorities are required to adhere to the following key principles as outlined in the national Self-directed Support Strategy:

  • Councils should invest an appropriate amount of funding in effective preventative and universal services
  • Services should meet the needs of funded clients and the wider population, thus helping to prevent the escalation of needs
  • Councils should be transparent with users at every stage. This should include their financial assessment and charging policies
  • Councils should also involve their local provider organisations in developing their commissioning plans

If you disagree with your local authority’s assessment of your eligibility for social care support then you should use the local authority appeals process to appeal their decision. The Scottish Government cannot intervene in individual cases.

Some Local Authorities have made changes to their charging policies following the enactment of Self-directed Support which has resulted in people being charged for services. The Self-directed Support Act does not include any specific duties or powers on charging, and does not make any amendments to existing charging powers or duties. Charging policies continue to be a matter for individual local authorities and if you feel you are being charged unfairly you should contact your local social work department. The Scottish Government cannot intervene in individual cases.

Self-Directed Support has been developed as a way of giving individuals more flexibility, choice and control over the support services they receive. However, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the resources allocated to an individual are used to meet their agreed personal outcomes. If you are attempting to make a purchase which the local authority feel will not help towards achieving your agreed outcomes then they may refuse this purchase. If you feel that this decision is unfair and that this purchase will help you achieve your outcomes then you should contact your local social work department to discuss.

You may be able to employ a close family member as your PA if:

  • you are unable to find a care agency or employ a PA who can deliver the services you need
  • you have special communication needs
  • your cultural or religious needs can only be met by a family member
  • you and your social worker/care worker agree this is appropriate.

However, if you want to employ a family member your council must agree to this arrangement. You should think very carefully about employing a family member who lives in the same house as you, as it will be difficult to separate the times when they are your employee and when they are delivering unpaid care. For further advice and assistance you should contact your local social work department.

In implementing Self-Directed Support, Local Authorities must comply with their duty of care under section 12A of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. Local Authorities must be sure that the resources they allocate to a person are sufficient to meet their needs and any provision or assistance should be based on a detailed and outcomes-focused social care assessment. Any change in an individual’s support should be clearly explained to them. The Self-directed Support Act does not affect the level of resource provided to a person under each of the four options and there is no single approach to resource allocation prescribed on the face of the Act, nor any single method recommended by Scottish Government. However, local authorities must ensure that the approach taken to the allocation of resources is both fair and transparent. If you disagree with the budget allocated to you following your assessment then you may wish to appeal the decision using your local authorities appeal process, more information on which can be found by calling your local social work department or visiting their website. The Scottish Government cannot intervene in individual cases.

Compass Launch offer advice for young people with support needs making the transition to adult life.