Direct payments: Answering frequently asked questions

Question 09. How can schemes be promoted and publicised?

Promotion and publicity is clearly essential if the take-up of direct payments is to improve in the way Stephen Ladyman, former Minister for Community, set out:

"Let me make it very clear. I want direct payments to play a central role in the future of adult social care. I don't want them reduced to a bit part, as they still are in too many places. I'm concerned that direct payments are not taking off as many of us had first hoped. Numbers were and are rising, but nowhere near as quickly as they should be or as they need to be.I want care managers and social services staff to become immersed in the way direct payments can work for people, to find out what the advantages are, to address the challenges, to find solutions to the support needs and the very reasonable concerns of potential recipients. I want social services to think laterally, not think literally. I want them to explore and push the boundaries of the possible and come up with flexible and innovative ways for meeting the support needs of these individuals.I want to see a future where social services work more effectively to produce the range of services and options that allow people to make meaningful choices about their lives." (20)

The Department of Health figures for 2003-04 show that 17,300 direct payments were made in England. (21)

While there has been an increase on the year before, this amount is still disappointingly low. Promotion of these payments has primarily been directed at service users but also their families and carers, as well as the community whose members may be interested in pursuing a career in social care.

Promotion has been extremely successful when done in partnership with a direct payment support scheme or other user-led organisation.

These are examples from the practice survey:

Looking at the development of the direct payment service in Peterborough, it was clear that, to maximise the benefit of the service, we would need to widen the style in which we informed individuals of its potential. We had already made the decision to invest in the independent support service in order to increase capacity, so it was decided, after consultation with service users, that the best way of promoting the service was directly to those who would use it, and from an independent perspective. We then specified that part of the increased support service budget be used to employ a part-time member of staff to promote direct payments with users, carers, and user groups. By doing this, we are able to inform many more individuals about the local direct payment service than simply via our own information, or through social workers and other direct workers.

Greater Peterborough Primary Care Partnership

Care managers should discuss direct payments with all eligible people at the time of assessment or review. It should be a specific question on the community care assessment form.

We are commissioned to offer road shows to specific user groups in each authority area which publicises direct payments.

West of England Centre for Inclusive Living

A social work manager in community mental health was funded to conduct a four-month project on direct payments (DPs) and mental health. She arranged a stakeholders' conference and initially hoped to set up a DP users group but was unable to achieve this. She then turned her attention to improving the awareness of social workers within the department of DPs. She found that the general training on DPs was not particularly helpful to mental health workers as did not cover their very specific legal constraints and something more specific was required. Next she conducted a survey within the department to identify social workers who were already engaged with mental health DP packages. These workers became the DP champions in their respective teams. They built up a body of expertise. The worker promoted DPs at team manager meetings and arranged for consideration of DPs to be included in the standard care assessment form. She made contact with the local direct payment support service and acted as a link between them and the social work team and explained departmental procedures. She devised a new referral form with a tear-off slip for social work managers to specify to the DP support service what further information would be needed to progress cases they referred - e.g, GP referral.

Tameside LA

It is clear that publicity and promotion should not be limited to informing service users. Local authority staff also need to be included and kept up to date with developments, new ideas, and changes in legislation.

One authority set up a focus group, predominantly for staff working with people with learning disabilities and the direct payment support service, Rowan. They also consulted with the advocacy organisation, and a direct payment (DP) service user attended a couple of meetings. Through the group they identified some of the barriers to people with learning disabilities accessing direct payments, and looked at ways of addressing these, particularly methods of raising awareness and knowledge. Through the group they:

- established lead practitioners in teams to support other care managers with the process of direct payments

- produced a simple plain English/supportive pictures service user leaflet produced a leaflet explaining what trusts are so [that] carers/relatives knew what the options were for people with higher support needs reissued Department of Health material to all teams

- arranged for direct payments to be the subject for one of the Service Users Parliaments ([comprising] 30 'MPs' - users elected to represent their areas) where presentations on what DPs are were held and a panel of LA and Rowan staff answered questions. This included a presentation by a person with a learning disability who was setting up a DP scheme. arranged for DPs to be discussed at locality groups (local groups where representative service users/carers/ voluntary organisations meet to focus on issues of local interest) fed back to the management team about some of the issues, etc.

Cambridgeshire LA