A Social Work Practitioner perspective of SDS
Those three little words…………………………………….
Yep we love to hear those important three little words – no not those three little words – Valentine’s Day is long gone – the second most important three little words – Self Directed Support!!
Jings – I hear you all gasp in horror – oh no not those three little words!!!!!!!
Those words many practitioners and people who use services still do not fully understand, the words that make beads of sweat appear on the foreheads of budget holders.
The Act brought a sigh of relief for practitioners, allowing them to really help service users and support them in a way that was meaningful, that was until the reality of the effects on every day working started to fall into place. The realisation that for older people, it is difficult to think out of the box when it comes to care needs given that older people rarely have money left in their budgets after personal care need costs are met. Practitioners are not actually able to build relationships with service users and really get to know them in the way that legislation suggests, as they are so bogged down with budgets, costs and charges, they are actually no longer able to spend time with people.
It seems that all people see with SDS is cuts. Practitioners stuck in the middle between budget holders telling them they need to cut packages, and service users seeing their packages being cut to essential care only. Waiting lists for day centres soar as it is cheaper and easier to source than one to one support. SDS encourages moving away from traditional services, yet more people are being pushed into them as it is an easier option. The transparent system is in no way transparent, with many people not knowing they have a budget or how much is in it, never mind the 4 options that many practitioners still do not fully understand.
Practitioners are still being asked by budget holders “what services does the service user want?” and “how much does it cost?”, before the budget has been agreed – panicking that a service user may want supported in a different way – oh no!! The power imbalance, further tipping the scales in the budget holder’s direction.
The new legislation that is meant to make everyone fair and equal has in practice created a postcode lottery and instead of bridging the gap of inequality, only widening it further.
How do we fix it? SDS is a fantastic idea on how service users should be supported yet budgets, paperwork, systems and fear do not allow it to work in an easy and seamless way. This needs to be challenged, and some of the work I have been doing with Scottish Care around promoting and implementing SDS is starting to gain traction in this area. For instance, I have been invited to work in a local area who have recently acknowledged they are “behind with SDS”, to improve their SDS systems and promotion, and have been working with Carers organisations in advance of changes to legislation for carers, giving them access to SDS. But I continue to wonder if a 10 year strategy is the solution!? It’s 30 years until I will be an older person and I wonder if even that is enough time to get it sorted; to allow me the power to be the expert in my own life (which I am) and the ability to be supported in a way that is meaningful to me, and enables me to have a good life. Just in the same way that every older person should be today.