Commission turns heat on councils with poor direct payments records

Councils face increased focus on direct payments in their
performance assessment after new figures revealed poor uptake of
the scheme.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection, which carried out the
research, has confirmed it will pay more attention to councils with
poor records on direct payments than in the past.

Community care minister Stephen Ladyman recently suggested making
direct payments compulsory.

Uptake of direct payments is already a key performance indicator,
but many councils are still failing to offer service users access
to them.

The report states that fewer than 13,000 people use direct payments
in England, despite councils spending more than £10bn a year
providing social services. It finds that barriers limiting take-up
and inhibiting the use of direct payments include lack of
information and poor staff awareness.

It also cites patronising or restrictive attitudes towards people
who might want to use the scheme and an unwillingness to devolve
power from professionals to individuals.

David Congdon, head of external relations at learning difficulties
charity Mencap, said 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 derisory.”

Northamptonshire Council, which makes direct payments to just 85
people, said it was launching a high-profile campaign in September
to increase awareness of the scheme

Leicestershire Council, which has 142 people on the scheme, said it
had appointed a dedicated project officer to work on a plan to
develop the idea throughout the council.

Essex Council, which provides 876 service users with direct
payments, attributed its higher uptake to developing one generic
scheme for everyone.

– Direct Payments: What are the barriers? from

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