Direct payments workshop days with Shropshire Council

Featured article - 13 January 2020
By Lorraine Currie, MCA and DoLS Manager at Shropshire Council and carer

Lorraine Currie, MCA and DoLS Manager at Shropshire Council and carer

Shropshire Council recently started to look again at how it offers direct payments. We ran two workshop days with help from Think Local Act Personal and people with lived experience of receiving Direct Payments. People were able to talk honestly and openly about their experiences and, what’s more, Senior Managers listened.

I was really struck by how people can be fearful when the balance of power sits with others and the whole way they live their life can depend on this fine balance. Some people were just starting to stick their head above the parapet and dared to talk about what it felt like

What we might call the 'care and support plan' is just a statement of what people need to live their life, their way.

I spoke as a person who manages a Direct Payment for someone who lacks the mental capacity to manage this process themselves. I am keen that the voices of those who can’t speak up directly are heard as we try and improve things for everyone.

My experience has been both good and bad. PEOPLE have been positive, skilled, empathetic but PROCESSES have been rigid, fixed and restrictive. Why is there a mismatch? Why do professionals who I know to be experienced and skilled, sell themselves short by writing social work jargon?

Why do caring individuals send out letters that can only be described as gobbledegook? Shropshire Council wants to change this. It wants a system which balances rights and responsibilities, which empowers where possible and protects when necessary. People told us the following:

Good services made people feel the following

Reassured / informed & energised / in control / listened to / motivated / empowered / satisfied / valued / heard & understood / self-confident / inspired / human.

Bad services made people feel the following

Frustrated / small / stupid / unheard / anxious / angry / frustrated / stressed / unsure / insecure / worthless / hopeless / defensive / scared / desperate / insignificant / worried / powerless.

The empowering nature of good services and support was clear. Those who use Direct Payments expressed a deep sense of vulnerability, based on their experiences and they wanted change.

Key words for a new Direct Payment Vision that emerged were principally: Flexibility / Trust / Choice. Underpinned by a system that works together with the person receiving direct payments to be: Exciting / Individual / Radical / Diverse / Transparent – and it provides: Change / Control / Simplicity / Information / Communication.

People were asked which rules they would like to bend or break in order to move forward with a radical approach to direct payments, some of the responses were:

  • Remove the fear
  • More time to be flexible and creative
  • Focus away from eligibility onto the person living a better life
  • Better language – get rid of jargon / excessive paperwork
  • Remove barriers to collaboration / stop doing things in silos / think bravely
  • Think about how you would like to be treated in my situation
  • Understand that there is a human at the centre of it all.

This cultural change can do much to improve people's lives.

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