Have you ever heard of Direct Payments (DP’s)?
Chances are,unless you are a disabled person or the carer of a disabled child or adult, the answer to that will be no.
So, to enlighten those not in the know, Direct Payments are health and social care payments for people who have been assessed as needing help from social services, and who would like to arrange their own support. They are a great way for people to maintain independence, and enjoy some flexibility about their care. Direct Payments can mean a whole new lease of life.
A person must be able to give their consent to receiving Direct Payments or have someone who can act on their behalf as the package of care will need to be managed by someone, even if they need help to do this on a day-to-day basis.
Using Direct Payments often means employing people as personal assistants and this can be daunting for people who are often facing stressful health and emotional challenges, but help is at hand.
I met up with Emma Rees and some of her colleagues recently at a Direct Payment support meeting where she was kind enough to explain her role as Senior Independent Living Advisor with Diverse Cymru.
I asked her to describe what her role entails.
“ We support people with all aspects of their Direct Payment, from recruiting onward. Some people need a lot of support , and others like to manage most of the scheme themselves, so we discuss what they need and advise accordingly.”
Who do you work with?
“We work with over 350 individuals and their families across Pembrokeshire. They are people of all ages and all disabilities.”
That’s a lot of area to cover and a wide range of people.
Emma agrees that it is a massive role. I ask her to tell me how she comes to work with these people? What is the referral system?
“ If they are not receiving support from social services already they contact the Local Authority ( LA) and an assessment is arranged To determine what their needs are and if they qualify. “ she explains,
“If people already receive support from social services they are usually offered the option of Direct Payments in place of the services they currently receive. If they are eligible, we receive a referral and one of our 4 advisors contacts them, usually within 3 working days.”
How much funding do people get?
Emma tells me that the amount a Service user receives will depend on the assessment the local authority makes of your needs.
How is the funding paid?
“Direct payments are made directly into a designated bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings’ account.”
I ask her what can people use Direct Payments for?
She explains that the money is used to pay for the services or equipment which will meet the Local Authorities assessment. The funding does have to be accounted for , she tells me and the LA will want to see the records, so the Advisor ensures people understand about keeping records and generally managing the scheme.
“As a general principle, there is some flexibility about how people choose to meet their assessed needs. We always advise on this to ensure they are being used correctly.”
I am curious to know of the most creative use of a Direct Payment in the area?
Emma has a think. “The most creative use of a DP I can think of was a Gym membership for a family member to have a break from caring and we have also had the insurance for a Guide Dog paid for out of the Direct Payment.”
Does having a Direct Payment effect any other benefits?
Managing a Direct Payment does sounds like a lot of work. What kind of support will advisors from Diverse Cymru provide, I ask
“Direct Payments really do allow people a greater degree of flexibility and many of our services users take our initial support and advice and need very little further help, though most will use our payroll service if they are employing Personal Assistants. Initially we can support with recruiting staff, advertising, arranging interviews, contracts, Employer Liability insurance etc. About 15 % of people will use agency support and we also help set that up if required. Some people are not so confident and we can offer them more concentrated support. Our highest level of support is a Managed Account. This means DP users send all their paperwork to us and we ensure agencies or Personal Assistants are paid on time and all paperwork is kept up to date.”
You also offer advice and support on Employment issues I believe?
“Occasionally problems arise with Personal Assistants. Our aim would always be to prevent things breaking down but we also step in and sort out things out if issues develop. Our advisors are highly skilled and they have the back up of the Employment Liability insurers , so we are confident that we can sort out most situations that might arise pretty quickly.”
I ask to speak with some of the people who have come along today to the support group. As it happens , all are carers.
Vivien Baillie has been involved with Direct Payment for 3 years and thinks the scheme is brilliant. The funding in this case ,is used to pay 8 carers who support her husband.
“The Direct Payment means we have so much more control over our lives and are so much more independent. Choosing and managing our own team has been great.”
I am curious to know if she had experience of employing before ?
“ I have employed before and that was useful experience. That doesn’t mean recruiting wasn’t challenging but we found all of our staff either through Facebook or by word of mouth.. We also use agency for back up as my husband has severe disabilities, but having the PA’s mean we choose the people who come into our home and we have a relationship with them.”
Maureen Daw supports her sister . “ Initially”, she tells me, “ I was very reluctant to employ. It was all so unknown, but the Independent Living advisor ( ILA) was wonderful. We had 17 applicants when we first advertised and shortlisted to 4. The funding is to allow my sister to socialise , which is really takes the pressure off me but I opted for a managed service from Diverse Cymru as I have to run my sisters home and my own and have my own family. It’s a lot of pressure but the Direct payment helps.”
Elizabeth Hughes helps manage her sons DP . He is 17 and he uses his 6 hours a week on weekends which allows her a good amount of time for her to get on with things . “ We are very happy with the Direct Payment, she tells me, But I did opt for a managed service as there is quite a lot of paperwork on top of everything else.”
If you think that you, or someone you know, might be eligible to receive Direct Payments please contact:
Pembrokshire Council: 01437 764551
Diverse Cymru: 01267 245579