Service users interests may not be adequately protected

Support groups for direct payments clients in Scotland will find
it difficult to represent all service user interests, a senior
academic has warned, writes Derren Hayes in

Professor Nick Watson, director at the Strathclyde Centre for
Disability, said there is a risk that because support groups
origins are in representing the interests of physically disabled
people, they will dominate the group’s agendas when direct payments
are extended to cover all Scottish social services clients from
June 2005.

Scotland accounts for only six per cent of the 10,000 people
receiving direct payments in the UK, but the Scottish executive
hopes to grow this substantially once councils are obliged to offer
it to all service users. This could see clients from asylum seeker,
domestic violence, learning difficulties and drug and alcohol abuse
services using direct payments.

How will we set up user groups for all of these people and
protect the interests of some of the smaller client groups? asked
Watson, speaking at community Care Live Scotland.

Do we have different support groups for all types of clients and
is that too many for local authorities to manage? I can’t see them
providing money to support all these different groups, he

Watson also said there were problems around understanding the
needs of people with complex communication difficulties when
considering whether they want or would benefit from direct

Are councils going to have the time to see if people are happy
with what they are getting? They will need to learn how clients
choose to communicate but do they have the time and

There are only a handful of support groups in Scotland at the
moment. They act as a meeting point for service users receiving
direct payments and offer help and advice for individuals with
administering the scheme. Scottish councils have had the option to
offer direct payments for some client groups since 1997.

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