How to be creative with Direct Payments, rather than staying stuck and panicking.

Shropshire Council invited TLAP colleagues to look at how they can improve the take up and use of direct payments. Caroline Lewis, speaks from the heart about her own struggles with using her direct payment to find personal assistants and what she got out of the session that urged an injection of creativity when it comes to DPs.

Have you ever felt that your whole way of life is threatened? It’s not a good feeling. Your brain falls into panic. Your natural response says hide and hope that your issues will go away.

 I’ve been feeling that way recently. At the worst moments I've no idea what I'm doing; I feel numb and retention of information is failing me but hey, and this may give you a real insight to who I am, I've got to believe it will get better.

I‘m feeling like this because I’m struggling to find personal assistants in Shropshire to add to my team. I have a small team of positive, professional, loyal and empathetic personal assistants that work with me. They have been stalwarts working closely with Sera, my Assistance Dog (assistant in chief and probably the real brains of the operation) and myself to ensure that I can live the best life that I can.

Unfortunately, that team is stretched, and I need new people to join me. I’m struggling to find what I want/need. I’m working hard to avoid panicking and I’ve now fallen into survival mode which for me comes with a little, of what some might call, off the wall humour and creativity. So, what have I been up to?

Shropshire Council needs a pool of Personal Assistants for people to fish in

I’ve got involved with the people who manage adult social care at Shropshire Council. They know they have an issue with direct payments because people aren’t taking them up. It’s ironic because one of the issues is that the majority of direct payments are used to employ personal assistants. But they need a pool of them for people to fish in.  At this time, it is felt by Shropshire Council that they are not imaginative or creative enough with their direct payments.  But they do have a desire to change that.

A new way of working around Direct Payments

I’ve joined a new Direct Payments Board, set up by both staff and people who use DPs.  We want to create a new way of working around these payments in Shropshire – a new culture. As the jargon goes (and there’s a bit of that), we are working ‘co-productively’. Myself, Mary and Katie (people who use direct payments and Personal Assistants) are equal to Tanya, Chris and Rob, managers and staff who look after the system.  Together we are looking for ways to bring about change.

Speaking from the heart

I had also started to think a little differently myself. I’ve drafted an advert looking for assistants through Facebook. Here’s my advert. Don’t be offended, this is me, these are my words, and I am over 6 foot tall.

“Cranky old bag needs thick skinned and empathetic, humorous female to join existing stalwart team to support "life as I know it". 1 to 1. Gorgeous dog also part of the team. Pays well for only 7 or 8, 24 hour shifts per month (Average 42hrs/week) and if you've been good you're allowed to go to bed at night. Needs a driver, someone over 5'4 and physically fit. Would suit someone who has experience of 24-hour shifts. The criteria are non-negotiable, designed to reduced wasted time and derived from prior experience”.

My advert came from the heart, it exposed my humour and made people laugh. In turn that meant people engaged, commented, tagged others and messaged me. So, I have interest. I’ve not yet found a new Personal Assistant but I’m not alone in tackling the issue. I’ve even started to rethink the non-negotiable element around the shift times.

TLAP development session – making Direct Payments a game changer

Last week I met with Cat, Kate and Clenton from TLAP at a development session looking at how we might be able to make direct payments a ‘game changer’ for people’s lives.

The TLAP event was an interesting insight for me. I had discussions and shared ideas with people involved in direct payment provision and management, as well as those of us in receipt. Together we have a common goal for an enriched and positive life. I have to say, it's so nice to see the genuine desire to evolve the direct payments system. It's been easy from the outside to feel isolated and that the people behind the concrete, don’t care. How wrong have I been!

Interested in a Development Session like this?

Shropshire Council are practicing person-centred care & support with Making it Real. If you are interested to find out more or get started with a Development session, get in touch.

Support from the National Co-production Advisory Group with Making it Real. 
What is the National Co-production Advisory Group


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