Councils will face an increased focus on direct payments in
their performance assessment after new figures revealed poor uptake
of the scheme, writes Amy Taylor.
A spokesperson for the Commission for Social Care Inspection,
which carried out the research, said the commission would be
keeping a closer eye on councils with poor records on direct
payments than they had in the past.
Community care minister Stephen Ladyman recently raised the idea
of making direct payments compulsory so they would become the only
way councils could provide people with care.
Direct payments are already a key performance indicator, but
many councils are still failing to offer access to the scheme to
high numbers of services users.
The report states that fewer than 13,000 people currently use
direct payments in England, despite councils spending more than
£10bn each year providing social services to hundreds of
thousands of people.
The report finds that barriers limiting take up and inhibiting
the use of direct payments include a lack of information on the
scheme and poor staff awareness of it as an option.
It also cites as further barriers patronising or restrictive
attitudes towards people who might want to use direct payments and
an unwillingness to devolve power from professionals to
David Congdon, head of external relations at Mencap, said that
he would support an increased focus on direct payments from the
“Many social services departments take the view that
people with a learning difficulty won’t be able to manage
direct payments, but this is quite wrong,” he said.
“The number benefiting with a learning difficulty are,
A spokesperson for Northamptonshire Council, which makes direct
payments to just 85 people, said that the council was launching a
high profile campaign in September to inform people about the
Leicestershire Council, which has 142 people on the scheme, said
it had appointed a dedicated project officer to work on an action
plan to develop the scheme across the council.
Essex Council, which provides around 876 people with direct
payments, attributed its higher uptake to developing one generic
scheme for everyone, and to its independent advocacy scheme and
support scheme run by people with disabilities.
N Direct Payments: What are the barriers? from www.csci.org.uk