Direct payments not promoted ‘due to fears over safety of the service’

Social services organisations in Scotland say a plan to offer
direct payments to all community care service users from April
could place vulnerable people at risk, last week’s care providers
conference in Dunblane heard.

In 2004, just over 900 people – most with physical disabilities
– were in receipt of direct payments in Scotland. Elsie Normington,
development worker at Direct Payments Scotland, blamed the low
take-up on social workers’ reluctance to promote the scheme.

Other delegates, including Alzheimers Scotland chief executive
Jim Jackson, put this down to social workers not wanting to
relinquish control over care planning.

“There has to be a major cultural change for social workers –
they need to see themselves as enablers rather than controllers,”
Normington said. “They are using the fig leaf of protecting
vulnerable people to not face up to new ways of working.”

But Ruth Stark, professional officer at the British Association
of Social Workers in Scotland, said social workers were reluctant
to promote direct payments because of concerns over quality of

“We are concerned the safeguards we worked very hard to get may
not apply to direct payments,” she said.
George Hunter, chair of the Association of Directors of Social Work
community care committee, denied that social workers were failing
to promote the scheme but said local authorities would be blamed if
something went wrong.

“If society wants to remove that responsibility from councils
and say we are prepared to take that risk, then so be it,” he

The debate comes as the Scottish Care Commission announced it
was recommending that it should not regulate individual carers
employed through direct payments.

Speaking at the Community Care-sponsored conference, SCC chief
executive Jacquie Roberts said that, rather than focusing on
regulation, the commission wanted to support service users to make
open, “informed choices” on who provided their services.

Deputy health minister Rhona Brankin said she was disappointed
with the take up of direct payments and would be making it a
priority over the coming months as the scheme was opened up to all
those over 65.


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