Direct payments: Answering frequently asked questions

Question 12. What about promoting direct payments to minority ethnic and other marginalised groups?

It is recognised that, so far, few direct payments (DPs) have been made to people from minority groups. However, there are examples of work that has been done to promote payments and encourage take-up.

We are working to make good contacts with black and minority ethnic groups and encourage members of these communities to take up direct payments. We started initially by inviting representatives from ethnic communities to the launch of our new website on direct payments. Through this, we recruited some service users to the scheme which then gave us the opportunity to reach further into the community. We would ask them and their family members for ideas about places and groups we could go to make presentations on direct payments. We would encourage the DP user to talk about her experience of the scheme to others in their community.

Brighton Direct Payment Advice Service

The Equalities National Council has produced a video entitled 'Breaking the barriers'. It is aimed at service users and is also a useful tool for practitioners and their managers.

Although the following examples of methods to promote direct payments relate specifically to black and minority ethnic groups, it appears that some principles can usefully be applied to other marginalised groups:

Direct payments offer greater independence and flexibility in support arrangements and, for people from black and minority ethnic communities, this can mean improved access to culturally sensitive support. For people experiencing mental health problems, direct payments can facilitate social inclusion, through providing support to access mainstream activities that are not stigmatising or mental health- focused. Targeting specific groups and taking information to them was identified as essential - for example, targeting people before they leave hospital, outreach work with black and minority ethnic communities, as well as ensuring that the options are discussed with all potential recipients. Undertaking this work adequately would require resources and training being made available but is vital if take-up for these communities is to be increased. (24)

The Essex Coalition of Disabled People put a successful bid together to the Direct Payment Development Fund, which Essex Council supported. This bid was successful and part of the funds have been used to appoint a full-time Direct Payment User Network (DPUN) coordinator. One of the key objectives for DPUN is to broaden the representation within the network to include traditionally under-represented groups including direct payment users from BME [black and minority ethnic] communities. DPUN now has representatives for older people, people with learning disabilities and people with mental health difficulties, as well as people with physical and sensory impairments and parents of disabled children. It is hoped that strong links can be established between the BME advocates to inform disabled people from these communities of direct payments and the existence of the Direct Payment Users Network, hopefully resulting in broader representation of these under-represented communities.

Essex LA

A specialist worker was appointed in October 2003 to work with black and minority ethnic groups, who is funded by the Department of Health. He has been making links with service users in minority ethnic communities and promoting direct payments in a number of ways. By working with 'Carers Bucks' he has been able to go on joint visits to minority ethnic service users and promote the idea of direct payments to them. This has increased take-up from these communities. He has also visited mosques and community centres and did a particular promotion during the Eid festival when local imams publicised the existence of direct payments and recommended it as a form of help available to families who have members who are disabled or have mental health needs and gave him as a contact. This helped to increase enquiries and take-up of DPs. He has also publicised DPs to mosque committees, worked with the race equality officer, the town mayor and social services care managers. The mental health sector has not produced many candidates for direct payments so far, but via home visits with people from Carers Bucks, applications are starting to come through.

Buckinghamshire People's Voices

Having access to an accountancy service through the direct payments support service to deal with the banking and administrative requirements was essential in overcoming the language and literacy barriers faced by the older women. None of the women spoke English and some experienced difficulties in dealing with bills and official letters. A link between Somali community workers and the direct payments support service helped to bridge the information gap between social services and the community, as well as give the older people access to direct payments. (4)

There is still much work to do, both in terms of informing communities about the opportunities that direct payments can bring and in making the process accessible and culturally sensitive. Yet there are undoubtedly examples of good practice as well as subsequent evidence of an increase in the take-up of direct payments from people from black and minority ethnic groups.