SCIE Race equality discussion paper 01: Will community-based support services make direct payments a viable option for black and minority ethnic service users and carers?
By Dr Ossie Stuart
Published: August 2006
The direct payments scheme is seen as an important step towards achieving independent living. There is, however, growing evidence that black and minority ethnic service users will be under-represented in these schemes. This discussion paper explains the latest legislation on direct payments, summarises the evidence indicating that black and minority ethnic service users and carers are unable to fully embrace direct payments and poses questions that address ways in which direct payments can be effective for black and minority ethnic service users and carers.
About direct payments
- Direct payments - that is, cash in lieu of social services - for adults of working age were introduced in April 1997 through the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996.
- Local authorities have a mandatory duty to offer direct payments to people who have an assessed need and who are able to manage the payments (alone or with assistance).
- Older people, disabled people aged 16 and over, a person with parental responsibility for a child, and carers aged 16 and over are eligible to receive direct payments.
- Amendments in the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act in April 2005 mean that public bodies have new statutory duties to promote race equality and disability equality.
Barriers that prevent black and minority ethnic service users accessing direct payments
- There is confusion over the meaning of 'independent living’ among black and minority ethnic service users.
- Assessment processes do not take account of black and minority ethnic service users’ backgrounds and requirements.
- Many black and minority ethnic service users are unaware of how to access important information on direct payments and lack the support to use it.
- It is difficult to recruit personal assistants who meet the cultural, linguistic and religious requirements of black and minority ethnic service users.
- Local authorities fail to consider using direct payments in more innovative and creative ways.
- There is a shortage of appropriate advocacy and support services.
- There aren’t enough resources for local direct payments schemes.
- There are variable levels of commitment to direct payments among local authorities, and the possibility for confusion over the relatives’ rules.
The needs of black and minority ethnic people have often been neglected or marginalised in the provision of social care services. Despite a mandatory duty on service providers to offer service users the option of direct payments and despite wide take up across the UK, black and minority ethnic service users are underrepresented in direct payments schemes.
To start to explore and debate some of the future challenges for social care, SCIE has commissioned three discussion papers looking at direct payments, refugees and asylum seekers, and the characteristics of social care organisations that successfully promote diversity. Originally published in June 2005 to form the basis of a race equality seminar, the papers have been re-published having first been revised following discussions at the seminar.
This discussion paper explains the latest legislation on direct payments and how it is meant to work. It also looks at why black and minority ethnic service users and carers are unable to fully embrace direct payments. Finally, it poses a number of questions that address ways in which direct payments services can be effective for black and minority ethnic service users and carers.
This discussion paper will be of interest to policy makers, social care practitioners and black and minority ethnic service user groups.
Questions for discussion
- What should a support service for black and minority ethnic service users look like?
- Care managers should ensure that the assessment process is fair and empowering for black and minority ethnic families. How might this impact on the support a community-based organisation can offer?
- Are organisations led by disabled people the best way to deliver inclusive community-based support services to black and minority ethnic service users?
- How should black and minority ethnic women service users and mothers of disabled children be supported when using direct payments?
- Should the conditional restriction on allowing people to use direct payments to secure services from close relatives be retained?
- How should information on successful support services and expertise on supporting black and minority ethnic service users and carers be passed on to other local authorities?
- What kinds of figures should the Department of Health publish about black and minority ethnic service user participation in direct payments services?
- The biggest obstacles for many people within black and minority ethnic communities are probably linguistic barriers. How might they be overcome?
- Appropriate personal assistance for black and minority ethnic service users is hard to obtain. How can this be remedied?
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- Will community-based support services make direct payments a viable option for black and minority ethnic service users and carers?