Councils face focus on direct payments in performance assessment

    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
    individuals.

    David Congdon, head of external relations at Mencap, said that
    he would support an increased focus on direct payments from the
    commission.

    “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,
    frankly, derisory.”

    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
    scheme.

    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

     

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