More options for those needing care

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More choice is being given to folk receiving social care following new legalisation that has come into force this week.

The Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 comes into force today and gives people four options regarding care:

• Direct payment – an individual budget is paid directly to a person or their representative, via the SIC. They use it to buy services from care and support providers, or can employ their own staff.

• The individual budget is held and controlled by the council or a third party. The person tells them what services they want and the service provider is paid directly.

• In agreement with the person, support is planned and provided by the local authority.

• The person uses a mixture of the above three options.

The plans of the 10-year national policy were discussed at a special social services committee meeting last week.

During the discussion, members were told there was no hidden agenda – as those receiving care from the local authority would not have to change unless they wanted to.

The committee heard the majority of people in Shetland receive support from the council, with only 29 individuals receiving direct payments.

And it is anticipated this will continue to be the case.

Information about the options will be discussed face-to-face with those needing care.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau has also agreed to develop information leaflets and a training programme for social care staff in relation to the four options.

Theo Smith has some concerns over the direct payment system.

Theo Smith has some concerns over the direct payment system.

But councillor Theo Smith voiced his concerns about the direct payment option.

“I strongly suggest caution,” he said.

Mr Smith questioned what would happen if a person had employed a poor carer and could not do anything about sacking them.

But interim executive manager of criminal justice and social care services, Stephen Morgan said a carer could be employed on a probationary period and advice would be given by Voluntary Action Shetland and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) before a person decided to take a carer on.

“We would never put somebody in a position where they couldn’t do this and we also have to assess whether they have the ability and capability to be an employer as well,” said Mr Morgan.

Councillor Allan Wishart asked for reassurance that there would be “absolutely no pressure at all” – with options being clear including the option of no change.

Mr Morgan said social care services would be selling the third option of council support, but a friend or family could be present when the options were being discussed.

Several teams are in place to help with the change, he added, and an implementation officer is also to be employed using government funding, for one year to support the process.

Councillor Gary Cleaver also raised questions during the meeting regarding the change in legislation.

Afterwards he said he would like to see someone from CAB giving advice on options available in the Northern Isles.

He also hoped space could be made for case workers to be familiar with those they were discussing care options with.

But the committee was told there are some challenges in meeting the new legislation.

For example there could be limited choices for people in terms of how their support is delivered and who delivers it.

In future private providers and the voluntary and not-for-profit sector are expected to become “bigger players”. This may take longer than in other areas as the council plays such a predominant role.

Direct payments may also be a challenge locally. This is because of low unemployment in Shetland, which may impact on people’s ability to recruit their own carers and there is also limited support to enable people to employ their own staff.

“On 1st April everything changes but nothing changes,” Mr Morgan said.

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