It Pays to be Direct

At last summer’s Community Care Live, social care minister
Stephen Ladyman introduced his vision for adult social care. It
should be, he said, one “that puts the person needing care at its
centre É(and) promotes inclusion and diversity and supports
people in their choices and aspirations”. And since then he has
made no bones that “direct payments can be a big part of achieving
my vision.”

Direct payments were introduced under the Community Care (Direct
Payments) Act 1996. Take-up proved slow. But two government actions
have begun to change that. First, from April 2003 councils had a
duty to make (not just offer) direct payments where individuals
consent to and are able to manage them with or without assistance.
And, second, the number of “adults and older people receiving
direct payments per 100,000 of the population” has become a new
performance indicator (AO/C51).

So councils have been pushed into seeking to communicate the
benefits of direct payments. And one council has seemingly cracked
it. The information video produced by the London Borough of Enfield
won this year’s Association of Social Care Communicators and
Community Care’s top social care communication award. And the
judges who described it as “an outstanding piece of work” commended
the campaign to other local authorities to follow.

“The idea was to give people a better idea of what direct payments
are all about,” says Enfield communication officer for social
services Emily Sault. “We had previously done a video for the deaf
using subtitles and this proved a good way of communicating with
the deaf community and with older people and ethnic communities as

Sault recruited service user and carer volunteers to appear in the
video who were either on or about to join the direct payments
scheme. Made by the production company Remark!, the video includes
subtitles and a British Sign Language signer throughout.

It formed part of the council’s direct payments material produced
in partnership with local voluntary organisation Enfield Disability

Drawing from people’s experiences provides powerful arguments. In
the video a woman who is caring for her mother who has dementia is
about to start on the scheme: “I like to be at church by 9am but
the carers are always late. It unbalances my day and creates a huge
difficulty for me. The direct payments scheme is going to give me
good value and a change to my lifestyle. I’m looking forward to

A parent of a young man with learning difficulties understands what
might put people off but assures them: “Whatever worries or fears
you have – put them aside and try it out because the benefits are

Equally convincing is the man with a physical disability who is on
the scheme: “I’m more confident; I’m confident to employ my own
carers and I’m using my existing abilities to improve my own

The video, which will be available as a DVD, cost about
£14,000 to make. Five hundred videos were made on the first
run. But numbers are dwindling:”They don’t always come back,”
smiles Sault. However, it can also be downloaded from the council’s
website ( htm)
which means that it can be monitored. “We had over 100 hits a month
at the start but this has now doubled,” she says.

Anecdotally the feedback has also been good. “Enfield Disability
Action say how useful it is and how people comment that it gives
them much more confidence that they can do it. The whole idea was
to give direct payments a down-to-earth approach, with people in
their actual environments,” says Sault.

Lessons Learned   

  • If you want to communicate effectively with a particular
    community, the best way is to use people from that
  • Be flexible with any scripts you might use. “Our script was in
    sections: an introduction; finances; support; and other
    information. Although staff stuck to the script the others taking
    part just said what they wanted – which it made it more natural,”
    says Sault.


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