On 21 May the government, through the Department of Health, sponsored a national conference called Direct Payments: A Route To 21st Century Social Care, supported by The Care Services Improvement Partnership and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
The purpose of the conference was to increase awareness and improve understanding of the benefits of direct payments – and to collect information from participants relevant to their vision for increasing the take-up of direct payments from people who receive local authority services.
There is a general feeling in government circles that the present take-up of direct payments in the UK as a whole has not matched expectations, so there is a need for action to address this.
In February 1999 I was discharged from hospital after spending 15 months receiving treatment for a broken neck. Back in the community my initial care package was set up with an agency, but after 14 months I had had enough and I began to seek other ways to manage my care needs. It was at this time that I was introduced to the concept of direct payments.
Since then, with the help of many of my peers, statutory bodies and (yes) a care agency I have been able to exercise some control over the management of my care needs thanks to direct payments, and now I can testify to the positive impact this scheme has on my well-being.
What pleases me most about direct payments is the freedom and responsibility it brings. The thought of losing all control over my life certainly didn’t appeal to me, especially since I retained all my mental capabilities. But, it will be irresponsible for me not point out that there are some challenging situations that can and do occur from following the direct payments route.
Two of these potential situations related to the security and management of money, and what to do when your personal assistant is unable to report for work at short notice. These two and many others can be overcome in most circumstances with careful planning and the building up of good relationships with other care providers.
I can only express my sincere thanks to everyone connected to the workings of the social care services.
Winston Davis is tetraplegic and a former test cricketer with the West Indies