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Self-directed support

The 2017 ‘Power to the People’ report contains a series of proposals to ‘reboot’ adult social care here in Northern Ireland. Amongst them there is a strong focus on having more person-centred, personalised social care services. Self-directed support is seen as one way of doing this – but what difference is it making to those that use it? In this week’s blog Maeve Hully wants to encourage those who have experience of it to share their views.

Attendees of our two Membership Events in Belfast and Omagh earlier this year will remember that the main theme focused on the reform of adult social care that is currently happening here in Northern Ireland.  During both days a number of different topics around social care were discussed and one of them was on self-directed support (SDS).  For those of you who don’t use social care services, you may never have heard of this term before.

Self-directed support means that once a Trust agrees that a person needs social care support they can work together with their key worker to agree how care is provided that best meets their assessed needs.  They will be allocated a personal budget and the individual can have as much control as they want over this budget. 

People in receipt of self-directed support have four options:

  1. They can take their personal budget as a direct payment, meaning they can directly employ support staff, such as a personal assistant, or pay for care services directly.
  2. Have their personal budget managed by the Trust, where the Trust holds the money but the individual is still in control of how it is spent.
  3. Have the Trust arrange the appropriate support services.
  4. Use a mix of any of the aforementioned three options.

You can find out more information on self-directed support and how it works by visiting the Health and Social Care Board website:

Essentially, self-directed support is billed as a more person-centred approach to social care by giving service users and carers greater choice and flexibility in arranging services to meet their assessed needs.  But is the reality living up to the hype?  From speaking to people at our Members Events we heard a number of different viewpoints.  Some people really liked the flexibility and freedom of choice that self-directed support offered them.  Others felt that being an employer and all the administration that came with it was too much of a burden.  A common concern expressed was that the rollout of the self-directed support programme was very slow.

Following on from this initial exercise, we are now embarking on a wider project to hear people’s views and experiences on self-directed support.  We’re going to try out a novel approach to engaging people by hosting a one-hour ‘Twitter chat’ in September and are encouraging as many folk as possible to join in on the discussion.  Using the hashtag #PCCSDS we’ll be asking participants to share the positive and negative aspects of using SDS and how they think it should change in the future.

Self-directed support Twitter chat
7:00pm – 8:00pm on Wednesday 12th September 2018.
Join in the conversation using hashtag #PCCSDS and follow @PatientClient
Not able to join us on the night?  Send your thoughts on SDS to us using the hashtag, or use the comments section of this blog.

What do you think of self-directed support?  Do you currently receive self-directed support?  Have you been offered it and turned it down?  Share your opinions in the comments section below!


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Previous comments ...

Mandy Cowden 12-Aug-2018 at 08:31 hrs

Great to gather feedback. I know two people who would like to comment but not via Twitter. One could email, the other doesn't use computers. Be good to try to get their views to you. Also important to think about barriers to accessing SDS Direct Payments and get people to comment on why they didnt go for it ie not just comments of people using Direct Payments.


Sherol Matthews 11-Aug-2018 at 11:57 hrs

The theory of self directed support is admirable but the practice is poor. I am chief carer for my 34 year old son and am finding difficulties caring as I get older and making attempts to prepare for the future. We were awarded direct payments late 2017 but it came with no paperwork or direction on how to manage this, the fact that I had three hospital admissions at this time may have prompted the payments and thankfully I had friends and family that did rally and looked after William and they were duly paid for the service they provided,since then the payments continued on a regular basis but I had to find out from the finance department what they were for. I still have no paperwork but I have been employing carers for help with back to bed and general care duties. I have also employed centre for independent living to do payroll and all is working well until I get demanding letters from the Trust asking for “ books” . There has been no guidance or format on how this should be presented but I have written a covering letter for the earlier part of the funding and have since submitted bank statements and copies of CIL forms none of which has been acknowledged and still the letters arrive demanding “books”. I am finding this stressful to say the least I just question the term “ self” directed support. Sherol Matthews for William Matthews XP


Mary mccracken 10-Aug-2018 at 19:08 hrs

Is there a daily or hourly rate for Sds
Can this money be paid directly to a third party providing daily activities for the person and is there a daily or hourly rate ?
Who decides what is suitable is it what the client wants or what the Trust seems suitable ?