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National Guidance on Self-Directed Support



115. Local support services have a crucial role to play in delivery of self-directed support. These organisations can provide training, peer support, advocacy, awareness-raising and confidence-building as part of the first hand knowledge they can pass on to new and current users.

Users' input into local procedures for self-directed support

116. Under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 2003, local authorities have a duty to involve service users in the development and planning of any services they provide, including when preparing their Community Care and Children's Services Plans. Service users need to be involved in the design, development and review of self-directed care policies and procedures locally as this assists in their design to suit individual needs. Care should be taken to include the views of people with different needs- people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people of different ages including older people aged 65 or over, people with learning disabilities or sensory impairments or people who are mental health services users. The views of carers, local support organisations and of potential service providers will also be important. Local support organisations should be involved on a local authority steering group overseeing the local implementation and operation of self-directed support, and may assist in providing training for staff. In addition, local authorities are required to carry out equal opportunity requirements under current law. This includes promoting equality of opportunity between disabled people and other people and promoting positive attitudes towards disabled people under the Disability Equality Duty of the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) 37.

117. Whatever form the consultation takes, it is important that people who have been consulted receive proper feedback about what has happened, and how their views have been taken into account. It is also important that the lines of communication remain open, so that the local authority remains responsive to users' views over time.


118. Information about self-directed support must be included in information about the full range of services that local authorities provide, including self-assessment and assessment stages. More detailed information should be made available separately in formats that are accessible to people with different forms of disability and to people whose first language is not English. Working in partnership with a local support organisation will help ensure that information is presented in accessible formats.

119. Self-directed support can be difficult to explain neatly in a couple of sentences, and prior knowledge cannot be assumed of either direct payments or the arranged services that they replace or complement. All local information must give details of the self-directed support available to people locally and nationally, and in addition to self-directed support, some people may have little real knowledge about their current council services, how they operate, who pays for the services or who controls the spending. For this reason, it is cost effective for local authorities to provide funding for individuals to access self-assessment and other support to help them prepare for the assessment with a local user-led support organisation.

120. Information about self-directed support should be included in local authority Community Care Plans, Children's Plans and Partnership in Practice agreements (PiPs) 38. Local area co-ordinators will get to know people with learning disabilities and their families in their local communities and help identify their needs and ensure they are met, including using self-directed support.

121. Various booklets, fact sheets and other information about self-directed support are available from UPDATE and other national and local organisations listed in Annex C.

'Self-directed support has had a positive impact on our lives! I would not have been able to achieve this without the help and support I received and continue to receive from my local Centre for Inclusive Living ( CIL). They have supported me through the whole process and assisted me in all aspects of employing a PA from drawing up the job description to the contract of employment. Thankfully my local CIL takes care of the payroll side of things so I do not have to worry about the financial side. I know that if I have any questions or problems they are happy to help and if I am unable to phone I can e-mail them and I get a speedy reply.' (Disabled parent, Edinburgh)


122. Research shows that having local support is essential to success and is cost effective 39. A well-run local support organisation also reduces the work of the local authority. Independently operated support organisations work in partnership with users, local authorities, voluntary organisations, service providers and advocacy services to offer information and practical services for individuals, such as payrolling systems for PA employers.

123. Local support organisations have experience of flexible and creative responses to individuals' support needs which is invaluable for supporting other under-represented groups. But to enable them to do this, local organisations need reliable local authority funding to increase their capacity and develop their services for all users. With appropriate funding user-led support organisations may be able to help build expertise into new and developing support organisations for specific user groups, such as older people aged 65 and over, or for minority ethnic groups.

124. Local authorities should also consider whether it would be helpful for other people to have access to the local support service. For example, carers may need advice about how self-directed support works, particularly if they are assisting someone with managing the arrangements. People who are self-funding their services may also welcome the advice of a support service.

Why independent and user-led support?

125. Advice and support should be accessible, impartial, independent and wherever possible, provided by people with experience of using self-directed support. Such peer support is about sharing experiences, exchanging practical information and ideas, and sometimes trouble-shooting over a longer period to ensure things work for an individual 40.

126. It is important that authorities do not allow the lack of a user-led support organisation to prevent the increase in uptake of self-directed support. Active networks can help build up steering committees to sit within non user-led support organisations or to form management committees that will form new support services. Some national as well as local support services offer training in managing committees and using organisational improvement frameworks such as 'Big Picture Facilitators'. For further information see the UPDATE website 41 for Five Steps - A Guide to Providing Direct Payments Support Services (2002) and the fact sheet The Role of the Support Organisation. If local authorities set up in-house support, then in issues relating to employment, they can refer the individual to Citizen's Advice, ACAS, and SPAEN (see Annex C).

What kind of support and when?

127. Support organisations may be able to offer users support and training at four key stages in the journey to self-directed care which are:

  • self-assessment and preparing for the assessment
  • care planning
  • setting up the care package
  • managing care.


128. Local authorities will need to devise a training strategy that addresses the individual needs of service users, their care managers, PAs, and health partners. This may involve joint training of key participants led by local support organisations.

129. At present there is no recognised qualification for being a PA which is something that needs to be advanced in the longer term. This means that induction in-service and on-going training become critical components in delivering tailored services to meet individual need. All of which needs to be underpinned by training on employment law and health and safety for PAs, PA employers and local authority staff. It is important that those involved in delivery of support understand that this is all about independent living. This means that once a PA is trained in first aid, moving and assisting, and training for any continuing health care needs such as certain aspects of diabetes and epilepsy, it is the individual who will provide training and induction according to their personal needs. This is part of establishing expectations for employer and employee of working arrangements and building the working relationship.

130. Local support services may be able to lead training for individual users that includes the following elements, where applicable:

  • for users - what it means to be in charge of your own support.
  • for agency users - how to shop around service providers, better control of agency care provision, how to set up effective contracts, use of agencies in respite and emergency cover situations, and supervision of agency staff.
  • for PA employers - training on safe recruitment, employment, management, development and retention of PAs. Other useful training might be undertaken in the first and subsequent years, such as: disability equality training, assertiveness skills, building self-esteem, managing conflict and self-advocacy.
  • for care managers - training for those who carry out local authority care assessments, care management and monitoring of self-directed support. Training should include elements such as the importance of income maximisation, Independent Living Fund, Supporting People grant and other funding sources which may be available to purchase care and support in the home, in the community, in education or in the workplace.

National support for self-directed support

131. Regional and national bodies may have an important role to play in supporting users. Some of the larger independent living support organisations such as Lothian Centre for Integrated Living, Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living and the Scottish Personal Assistant Employer's Network ( SPAEN) have well established training programmes which can be purchased throughout Scotland for users, PAs and local authority staff. Such organisations are crucial in capacity building the network of local support organisations so that they can deliver quality and consistency in the training available locally. They are also there to provide information and services. Independent living options are about choice, and there should be a choice of sources and types of information available for users to take account of individuals' as well as different user groups' needs (see Annex C).

132. For example, the centres for integrated living may be able to provide a range of services that include an independent, impartial advice and information service, independent living advocacy, peer support and counselling, training, help recruiting PAs, and payrolling services 42.

133. SPAEN is a national support organisation offering advice, support, advocacy and training on the practicalities of PA employment procedures including all aspects of safe recruitment, the drafting and issuing of terms and conditions of employment, and the day to day personnel management of employees 43. Underpinning SPAEN's services is an employers' indemnity scheme and access to a comprehensive system of personnel and employment law advice. SPAEN is also a registered body for vetting enhanced disclosure checks.

134. Other organisations and projects offer targeted help for different user groups. For example, at present approximately one third of individuals on self-directed support are aged 65 and over. To reach even greater numbers of older people, the Scottish Helpline for Older People ( SHOP44) is a consortium of key organisations working to improve information on self-directed support for older people. The Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability ( SCLD45) has produced a guide on receiving direct payments for people with learning disabilities (see Annex F).