The ALLIANCE's latest research highlights the need for greater communication and transparency within Scotland's social care system.

The ALLIANCE recently published its latest research report, ‘Personal Experiences of Self-directed Support’, exploring the impact of Self-directed Support (SDS) on the lives of people who access social care in Scotland.

This is the culmination of a 3-month research study involving over 100 participants through an online survey and one-to-one interviews. In this viewpoint I highlight some of the key findings to have come through the research from talking with disabled people, people with long term conditions and carers.

To begin, there are positive findings to have come out of the research, suggesting that Self-directed Support is beginning to be the accepted model for delivering social care in Scotland. For example, around 70 per cent of respondents to the research indicated that they feel informed about SDS, while around 80 per cent have had a discussion about SDS with their social worker. There is also a welcomed increase in the satisfaction levels amongst people who have moved onto SDS, with an upward trend of satisfaction with SDS across the majority of demographics included in the research.

The goal of the Scottish Government’s SDS strategy was to shift the balance of power from people who provide services towards those who access them, including disabled people and people living with long term conditions. The intention being that people become the drivers of their own support instead of passive recipients of care. However, there remain several key issues highlighted by the findings that the ALLIANCE believes must be addressed if the underlying human rights principles and values of SDS are to be fully realised.

One of the headline findings of concern to come out of the report is that even when people had been assessed as being eligible to receive an SDS package, almost a third of participants had to wait up to one year or longer before their support was put into place. This was compounded by evidence from interviewees that during the time they were waiting to get their SDS package, they were allocated multiple social workers, which delayed the process and made the experience increasingly stressful.

The research further found that the key component of SDS, to give people choice, is highly dependent upon how much autonomy people have over their care. While over half of respondents on Option 1 and 2 stated that they chose their SDS package themselves or with input from friends and family, the majority of respondents on Options 3 and 4 indicated that a family, friend or social worker made the choice on their behalf.

Finally, looking at how SDS is used to meet people’s outcomes, when their SDS package is in place, it is respondents on Option 1 who are most likely to choose support from the range of services available – such as employing Personal Assistants, accessing local providers, or using local authority support. The largest group, around 70 per cent, of those on Option 1 use their budget for personal care, which is much higher than those on Options 2 and 3. These findings could suggest that the more control people have over who and how their support is provided, the wider a range of options they will choose and the more likely they are to use it to meet their personal care needs.

The main recommendation to come out of our research focuses on improving the communication and the availability of support to people going through the SDS process. The report shows that when people are properly engaged in their SDS from the initial assessment to managing their support on a day to day basis, they can be empowered and in control of their lives. By equipping people with the appropriate knowledge of their rights to SDS, as it was intended, disabled people can be enabled to live independently and to achieve their outcomes. This is why the ALLIANCE is fully supportive of the ‘Shared ambition for the future of social care and support in Scotland’ agenda which calls for “Respecting, protecting and ensuring disabled people’s human right to be the author of their own lives, to choose where and with whom to live and to control their own support.”

Please get in touch with Colin Young should you wish to discuss the research further or if there are upcoming events and publications through which the research findings can be promoted.

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