Direct payments: Answering frequently asked questions
For much of my life I have fought alongside other disabled service users for the right to independent living. Independent living is not about living alone, putting your own socks on and making a cup of tea. Independent living is about having the support to access life opportunities and choices in everyday life that we all take for granted, like going to the neighbourhood school, getting a job and caring for our families.
Direct payments are an essential feature of independent living. Without the means to purchase the support I need to go to work, support my family and actively engage in community life, I would be economically dependent and socially disengaged. Direct payments are vital to my sense of well-being and self-determination.
There has been a low take up of direct payments in England, particularly amongst black and ethnic minority groups; this despite the Direct Payment Regulations introduced in 2003, which require local authorities to offer direct payments to all people using community care services. (Corresponding regulations were introduced in Wales in 2004.)
Yet, amongst the group of people who receive them, there is evidence to show that direct payments can be transformational and can work across all service user groups. Expanding the use of direct payments requires imagination, creativity and innovation from health and social care staff. It also requires commitment, time and resources from senior managers, and - not least of all - staff need permission to take risks and experiment.
This guide demonstrates that there are numerous methods for promoting and successfully implementing direct payments. The examples provided illustrate the impact they can and have had. Now is the time to employ these methods so that all people who would benefit from direct payments are given the opportunity to live independently and to manage their own support.
Jane Campbell Chair Social Care Institute for Excellence