SDS: a developing picture

Written by: Colin Young, Senior Policy and Outcomes Officer, the ALLIANCE
Circular shape on a red background, with the caption 'Self-directed Support' in the centre

Do this years’ ‘Data under Development’ statistics on Self-directed Support call for cautious optimism?

I believe the headline figure from this years’ ‘Data under Development’ statistics on Self-directed Support’ (this link will take you away from our website), that 70 per cent of people have been given choice and control, should be taken with a degree of caution.

As acknowledged by the Scottish Government itself: “The methodology for calculating the national implementation rate has been refined to use a denominator that better reflects the number of people for whom a choice should have been available”, which means that this figure is now incomparable to that of last year. And yet, the data suggests that if the same methodology had been used, the percentage of people who had been given a choice would have been 39 per cent, which is a positive increase from 27 per cent last year, but with room for much improvement.

Looking at the breakdown of Options, the latest statistics suggest that people overwhelmingly chose Option 3, which is often considered the continuation of Local Authority-provided services. While the Scottish Government appears to suggest that the high representation of older people receiving social care impacts this, they also concede that people over 65 are less likely to receive choice over the type of support they wish to receive. Juxtaposed to this is that under 18’s were most likely not to choose Option 3 and those in the 18-64 age categories were still less likely to choose Option 3. This contrasts with the ALLIANCE’s findings, which found that people over 65 were least likely to choose Option 3.

The Scottish Government data discusses Social Care Expenditure and breaks down how much is spent on average, depending on age group. While those on Option 1 both over and under the age of 65 have a similar amount on average, there is a large disparity between the amount spent on those over and under 65 on Options 2 and 3. The difficulty with the Scottish Governments’ reasoning – that this is down to younger people tending to have a greater level of need – is that one would then have to suppose that the disparity should be similar across all options. However, what the data could suggest is that those over 65 on Option 1 are getting a package of support that is more reflective of what they need to meet their personal outcomes, in the same way that under 65’s do. This chimes with the ALLIANCE’s findings that half of people over 65 said they did not have enough hours in a day to meet their requirements.

Considering practical implementation, the publication of ‘Scotland’s progress towards implementing self-directed support 2011-2018’ (this link will take you away from our website) by the Scottish Government seeks to reiterate that progress has been made to embed SDS. Overall, the new report concludes that the challenges in implementing the new approach “are being recognised and tackled at all levels” and that “embedding of…choice and control across an integrated health and social care landscape is underway.”  However, significant challenges remain in recruiting sufficient social care workers to meet needs, particularly for care at home in rural areas. The report concludes that the demand for greater choice and control is challenging current frameworks regulating social care.

In all, this years’ statistics and progress report suggest that SDS is beginning to be the main delivery mechanism for social care. However, the continued over-reliance on Option 3, and disparity in funding levels between the options, indicate that the increase in choice and control espoused in this dataset may not reflect growing diversification of support in Scotland.

Download the SDS ‘Data under Development’ Scotland 2016-17 report, and the Transforming Social Care report below.

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