The importance of family members in encouraging the use of direct payments

As TLAP explores how to reduce bureaucracy in direct payment oversight, Philippa Russell reflects on the important role of families in encouraging take up of direct payments.

I welcome TLAP’s new report on direct payment oversight (opens new window) with its very useful quotes and examples from local authorities and others about 'making it work’.   

Talking to very different groups of carers over the past couple of months about assessments, reviews were repeatedly raised as topics of concern. There was often huge anxiety (increased by the language and format used for reviews in many cases).

Of course, the use of direct payments has to be monitored and reviewed. But even I (a seasoned family carer) was worried when I received two sheets of excel forms to complete for my son's financial review. I also wondered how many local carers or users would actually be able to complete or even download an excel document.  An introductory letter like the one co-produced and shown in this publication would have made the process so much more comfortable - particularly if thanks to omicron and other things there had been some inevitable slight variations in how the direct payment could be used.

I firmly believe co-production (opens new window) needs to be at all levels - individual, family, peer/more formal support, policy and strategy.

I have added 'family' because in many cases a family member or members will be discussing with the individual and social worker or other people whether a direct payment would work for them and how it might be spent. Older people and their families are likely to be initially more sceptical about direct payments because they may worry about the money management. They may be alarmed at the prospect of finding a Personal Assistant and becoming an employer, and in particular they may feel that an actual service directly commissioned by the local authority would be more reliable.

This uncertainty (which I have often met in meetings with carers of older people) often reflects the fact that many older people and their families have never seen or heard about direct payments. They don't know what they can offer or what resources might be available to help them use a direct payment without problems. Sadly they often make poor purchases because of lack of information on all the options available and may have no idea of the resources provided through CILs or peer groups to make self management and control easier. TLAP’s guidance and promotion of direct payments in accordance with the principles of the Care Act is timely and helpful in this regard.

I would like to see many more older people - and their family carers - knowing about and feeling confident about using direct payments.

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