Leading the lives we want to live

Going again with self-directed support

Martin Routledge Social Care Future & Martin Walker TLAP
The Whose Social Care is it Anyway Inquiry led by people who draw on social care identified Five Key Changes to unlock an equal life and asked us all to act to make them happen.
Social Care Future is bringing people together to go deeper into these changes in order to work out what we and others can do to drive them forward and realise the vision that is our north star. To help this we are running gatherings on each of the key changes and partnering with Research in Practice to co-produce supportive evidence
Key Change 3 is Leading the lives we want to live and this is the one Social Care Future and TLAP will be exploring in depth on February 24th – why not join us? Social-Care-Future-On-Line-Spring-Gathering-24th-Feb-22-v1.pdf (socialcarefuture.org.uk) This Key Change is crucial if we are to be able to take charge of our own lives by directing how support is used to achieve what is important to us. This is equally important to all forms of support, whether we are using personal budgets, or being supported by commissioned services at home or in accommodation with support. Our gathering on Feb 24th will be exploring all of this.
In this blog we want to put the spotlight on self-directed support via different kinds of personal budget and this will be the focus of the afternoon workshop in February.
Despite being encouraged by policy for many years and in law for a good number now we know that there is a frustrating rhetoric-reality gap for people trying to take charge of their lives through personal budgets, whether via direct payments, individual service funds or managed budgets. 
Research and reviews over a couple of decades now have pointed to reasons for this gap including issues of power, culture, systems and practices and in a context of severe budget cuts. National governments have not taken effective action to realise stated policy intentions and with some important exceptions local leaders have mostly not managed to drive and support the changes to systems, cultures and practices needed to properly shift power to people.
More positively, we have both clear ideas about how things should be and increasing understanding of what needs to change to make this possible. We also have many “jigsaw pieces” from local places that have been making serious attempt to achieve positive change. On direct payments, TLAP recently pulled much of this together in their publication Direct Payments, Working or Not Working?  Direct Payments – working or not working? – Resources – Think Local Act Personal
During the early stages of the pandemic there were some real problems for many people using personal budgets – often they felt forgotten. At the same time others had really flexible and supportive responses from their councils – potentially pointing the way to ways of running things outside of crisis conditions. At national level a “Re-imagining self-directed support” group with the Department of Health and Social Care emerged during this time, providing an opportunity for policymakers to hear from people who draw on social care and consider what national leaders need to do to close the rhetoric-reality gap. This work is continuing in the context of the recent social care reform White Paper and ideas about what policymakers can do, from influencing commissioning through assurance of councils and supporting better practice. Pandemic experience has perhaps also provoked more significant reflection amongst some councils and the bodies that support and represent them.
Looking at what people at the local level can do, TLAP and partners have been exploring some of the more positive developments in places that are looking to really go again with self-directed support. This is the experience that will be shared at our workshop which forms the afternoon session of our February 24th gathering. We will hear from people directing their own support, from professionals and from those responsible for local systems of assessment, allocation, finance and more. We will look at bureaucracy busting and enabling practice. We will have an opportunity to explore and hear ideas about how the re-ignited interest in self directed support at policy level might enable better conditions for people to have choice and control and consider how the likely new assurance of council commissioning could help if done right.
Mostly though the afternoon will be a practical sharing of what is possible, right now and how people in some places are making progress in co-production. If they can do it surely we all can?
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