Trailblazing direct payments in residential care
Direct payments will be extended to people living in residential care to manage their social care needs from 2016. Ahead of the changes, a Department of Health funded programme is evaluating how best to introduce direct payments so residents can benefit from the increased choice and control which the payments offer. TLAP partner Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) (opens new window) has been commissioned to manage and support a trailblazer programme that consists of 14 local authorities involved in this evaluation.
Victoria Cotton, Development & Engagement Officer responsible for project managing direct payments in residential care for one of these trailblazer sites -Staffordshire Local Authority, describes their progress.
We believe that the introduction of direct payments in residential settings will be fairer because everyone with a care needs will be able to access them regardless of their service settings. However, the overheads associated with residential settings bring higher costs and with that less flexibility on spend. It is therefore vital to ensure that the residential care provider is receiving enough funding to provide a successful service and that all of its overheads are covered for making sure quality care and support are achieved. This is something we have reviewed with providers by looking at which of the costs must be fixed and which can be variable.
Due to the overheads associated with residential care in Staffordshire, we are trialling the benefits from part direct payment spend on social activity. The benefits can be highlighted by looking at current examples of direct payments used in this way and the impact on delivering support plans in innovative ways. We will now look at whether a social activity direct payment for residential settings will provide positive outcomes by offering freedom to organise activities that is meaningful to the individual. The perceived outcomes could result in increased engagement with those with similar interests, visiting places new to the individual and trying activities we once may have thought were not possible.
Personally I feel that when an individual is supported to identify what they really want to achieve socially and the potential benefits for doing this, then the introduction of direct payments could improve the lifestyles of individuals living in residential care. Thinking differently about the best way to spend limited monies and budgets can not only benefit an individual's choice and control, but most importantly their emotional wellbeing and self worth. Although we can all think of barriers to making direct payments in residential care work, I think the lessons learnt from the Department of Health trailblazer will hopefully benefit current and future individuals living in our residential care settings.