The Simon Heng Column – A service user’s view of social care

    Being disabled can be a full-time job. Recently, I began using the
    direct payments scheme. So rather than other people organising my
    care package, I am supposed to have greater freedom of choice about
    who, how and when I receive the care I need. It is being sold as
    the means to achieving greater independence.

    What I am finding out is that direct payments also means more
    responsibilities, risks and problems to solve. Which means more
    worries.

    When you take on the direct payments scheme, you will probably
    employ people yourself, rather than pay an agency.

    When you become an employer, you have to be responsible for paying
    people regularly (the people who work for you rely on you for the
    money to pay their bills and so on).

    You will also have to pay the Inland Revenue the appropriate tax
    and national insurance contributions. And you will have to ensure
    that you are insured against damage and injuries to yourself and
    your carers. To do all of this, you have to keep accurate records.

    Although there is often help available, you have responsibility for
    recruiting and selecting your carers. This can take a long time.

    There is always the risk that the carers you choose will be go
    sick, leave or just be unsuitable. You quickly realise that you
    need contingency plans for when things go wrong – and, believe me,
    they will break down at some point! And I haven’t even begun to
    address the minefields of employment law, health and safety
    legislation or staff trainingÉ

    If I don’t agree about the hours of care I need, or I think the
    rates I’m expected to pay my carers is not competitive, I have to
    negotiate with my local social services department and the
    independent living fund about how much they are prepared to pay for
    my care!

    You might say that this is all part of being more independent. It
    seems to me that it has turned being disabled into full-time job.

    Unpaid, of course.

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