Transcript: SPAEN and self directed support

Colin Millar, Chief Executive of SPAEN (Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network), talks to Michael McEwan of Able Radio about Self Directed Support in Scotland: the four options, SDS and carers, how to apply and the role of SPAEN.

Podcast Episode: SPAEN and self directed support

Category: Self-directed support 



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MM - Michael McEwan
CM - Colin Millar

MM We are joined by Colin Millar, now Colin Millar is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Personal Assistant Employment Network, wow, that’s a bit of a mouthful. Colin and his team deal with Self Directed Support. So first off, can you tell us a bit about Self Directed Support?

CM Sure, Self Directed Support is the name that’s been given to a national strategy, so in November 2010, the Scottish Government started talking about folk having more choice and control and freedom over how their support needs are met, and the Self Directed Support strategy, aims to encourage folk to take a lot more control and have a lot more say over how they meet those needs. But it also encourages the statutory bodies, like the Local Authorities and the NHS Boards to positively engage with folk to talk about that, so we are no longer caring for people, we are working with them. So that’s the big kind of shift in Self Directed Support as far as we see it.

MM So if people need your help, you have got 4 different options about Self Directed Support, can you just talk us through them and tell us how it all works?

CM Sure, option one is where the person elects to take a direct payment, so that basically means that the money that’s there to give you the support that you need to live an independent life is placed in your control, in your custody, so you can decide how you use that money to meet your needs, and that can be anything from purchasing support services to buying items or equipment that you need in order to live independently, or a mixture. But the key thing is that we agree that the supports that you need or the outcomes that you want to achieve, you get the money and you then decide how you spend that money. Option two, means that we ring-fence the money that’s available for you, but rather than you having to hold the money and employ your own staff, you can go out and get an agency to come in and they can provide the support and services for you, but you still maintain control of how that budget is spent, so there’s still a good element of control in there about you deciding what you want and how you are going to achieve that. Option three is the more traditional route, where the Local Authority would put in support services to meet the needs that you’ve been assessed as having, and you would be more or less just be in receipt of those services, it’s much less controlled but there’s also much less responsibility coming with it. And then there’s this option four, which catches the whole thing and people can take any part of any of the options or all of the options and say I maybe want to employ a PA to come in and help me get up and dressed in the morning, and I will have an agency come and provide my lunch, and then I will have the local authority giving me a ’tuck in’ service at night, or anything like that. So again, it’s very much down to what an individual person wants, and every Self Directed Support package will be completely unique to that person and the type of life that they want to lead.

MM Now, I should have said that we are in Motherwell, speaking to Colin Millar. Now, is this opens to the whole of Scotland, or is it only for people living in Lanarkshire?

CM It is, it’s across the whole of Scotland, so anybody in Scotland with assessed health or social care needs can access Self Directed Support, and it also extends to carers now as well, so if you are a carer, then you can ask for a carers assessment, and you can also get the range of options under Self Directed Support. If you have got a legacy support package from the Local Authority, then at some point that will be reviewed and the Local Authority has got the duty to then say to you, you have got these four options, how do you want to take it forward? And the key thing is that you retain that control, you have choices to make, you need to understand what those choices are and you need to understand that they are your choices to make. Folk can’t, unless there’s really exceptional circumstances, they can’t take those choices away from you, and they shouldn’t be trying to make the decisions for you either, it should all be done ‘with you’ as opposed to being done ’to you’ now.

MM You said that you have got four options, so if people listening to this and say, “oh, I quite fancy applying for Self Directed Support”, how do they go about this?

CM Usually the easiest way is to go via your social worker or your social work department and they will allocate somebody to come out and do an assessment to understand what it is that you are needing support with and what it is that you want to achieve through getting that support. And that can be anything from as simple as getting up and getting dressed to finding employment or volunteering, it could be getting your shopping or it could be going and getting social interaction, it can be a whole range of things. So if you have got any kind of support needs, then you would go through that assessment process. At the end of that, the Care Manager or the Social Worker or whoever is doing the assessment with you, would sit down, talk you through what do you need support with, how do we meet those needs, and at the end you should have a plan that says, here are the things that we need to do, and it’s then again back to you to decide out of those four options, how do I want to meet that.

MM So, if people are listening to this and say “yes, I fancy applying for Self Directed Support.” The next step is Direct Payments, now what is a Direct Payment?

CM Yes, a Direct Payment is when the money that’s allocated for your support service or support needs is paid to the individual, and that’s under option one, so the money is given to you and you have got to take care of that money, you can spend that money to meet any of your assessed needs and outcomes in any way that you agree with your Local Authority or whatever, but the money sits with you and you have a lot more control over how you use that. And that can include the bit where we are most involved in, where you might employ your own staff. So rather than getting somebody to come in from an agency and it’s maybe you get one person one week and then it changes to somebody else, a lot of people like consistency, they like things done in a particular way, as we all do, so if you have got something that you like done a particular way, you might want to take on your own staff, and you might want to train them in how you like things done, and you get that consistency. And you can do that through your Direct Payment, engaging with people like SPAEN, and saying, okay I want to take on my own staff, how do I go about doing that, and not being worried about taking a Direct Payment or employing staff, because it’s a very empowering experience, it gives you absolute control over how you meet your support needs. And there’s a whole range of supports in there, so having a Direct Payment for some people sounds quite scary, it sounds like a lot of work, and I need to account for the money, I need to manage the money or … but the Self Directed Support Act, basically says that people should be given as much support as they want or need in order for them to access that range of options as well. And there’s a whole bunch of support organisations like SPAEN, that can tailor the support that we provide to PA employers or people in receipt of Direct Payments, so that actually it’s not about compromising, it’s not about saying I have got more choice but I need to spend more time doing paperwork or filing out forms, it’s about you having absolute choice and control and saying ‘can you come and help me do the other bits and pieces, so that I can go off and do the things that I want to do with my life?’

MM So you were saying about Direct Payment, what is a third party Direct Payment?

CM A third party Direct Payment is when the person elects not to have the money sitting in their account and they perhaps want somebody else to hold that budget, so if you were going under option two, and you were saying I know how much money I have got to spend and I know which agency I want to engage, so you just give the budget over to that agency and they will provide the services and they would also account for the money that’s spent in your account. But that money can be held by a whole range of people, and again, SPAEN and organisations like ours can hold your Direct Payment, and you can go and engage an agency and the agency would then send the invoices, and SPAEN would work with you to say, you know, are you happy with the invoice, are you happy with the money that’s being charged, did you get the support etc, and we would then take care of all the payments for you. So again, you have still got the ability to say this is what I want and how I want it done, but you don’t need to worry about all the kind of accounts and what came in and what was spent and when was it spent, and all that kind of stuff.

MM Yes, that can get a bit confusing at times, yes.

CM Yes, and that’s when we talk about it being about choice and not compromises. It’s not about you saying I want the freedom of having the money, but then I need to sit and do all this …

MM Paperwork?

CM … you know, how much came in, how much went out, how do I report that back to the local authority, because ultimately the Self Directed Support Act is there to let people go and live their lives. So we can provide all those supports so that folk can focus on living their lives, and we take care of the other bits and pieces, with as little input and intrusion as is necessary.

MM You mentioned about Self Directed Support on Carers, can you give us a bit more information about that?

CM Yes, under the Self Directed Support Act, there’s duties which is things that the Local Authority must do, and where the Local Authority is working or becomes aware of a Carer, they have a duty to tell that Carer that they are entitled to an assessment of their own needs and in their own right, and that’s very important, because a lot of Carers are unpaid and are often informal Carers or unrecognised Carers, there was a lot of talk about the ‘invisible army’ of Carers in Scotland. So they are now able to access support in their own rights, to allow them to continue their caring role without any kind of coming to a point of crisis or things like that. So where the Local Authority becomes aware of a Carer, they have got a duty to tell that Carer that they are entitled to a Carers Assessment, and where the Carer requests an assessment, they will have a duty to conduct that assessment. Part of the, maybe the weakness in the Act, is that once that’s done and we have got an assessment of the Carers needs, there are powers, and that’s things that the Local Authority can do, but they are not obliged to do it, so there’s a power to give Carers Self Directed Support in order to support them in their role, but there’s no duty to give them it, so it’s really then down to how much, in terms of budget constraints and all these kind of … where all the stuff that maybe sways these things, so a Carer may be assessed as having support needs through Self Directed Support, but they might not get those needs met because there’s no duty to actually meet those needs. And there’s now things like the Scottish Government are working on a Carers Charter and things like that, so hopefully we will start to see that Carers will become entitled to some kind of support where there’s an assessed need as well, and that obviously benefits everybody because it takes pressure off the kind of unplanned interventions that come at crisis, it hopefully means that the people that they are caring for get better support and better quality life outcomes as well, and the Carer is also getting some support.

MM So, if people are listening to this and say, ‘I fancy a bit of Self Directed Support or Direct Payments’, how can people email you and look up SPAEN, I take it you are on Facebook as well …

CM We are, yes

MM … if people want information?

CM We have got a local telephone number, so you can phone that from anywhere in Scotland and it only costs the same as phoning a local number, so we are on 0845 6011156, our website is, much shorter than the title, and on there, there’s a whole range of ways to contact us, email, we are on Facebook, we are on Twitter, we are on Google Plus, and again we are holding an ‘ASK SPAEN event’ on the 18th of June, where folk can engage with us on Facebook or Twitter and just post up questions between, I think it’s 1 and 2.30, and we will just respond right there and then. So now only do you get to ask your question and get an answer, but you can see what other people are asking and you can see the answers that they are getting. And even if you can’t make it to that, you can always look back later on and see what questions were getting asked, so a whole range of ways of getting … we have even got audio description and Braille documents as well, for people that are visually impaired. We are trying to make sure that as many people’s needs are met as possible.

MM We will put all these details up on the website of, so thanks for Colin Millar, good luck in the future.

CM Thanks very much.

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