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|10 Feb 2016|
Aberdeen Stronger Together Meeting
The essence of Self Directed Support is meant to be having the freedom to spend an Individual Budget on the support and services that can truly meet your need. In the early days, videos were produced of people spending their money on holidays abroad or on personal development courses or opportunities. The argument was if you gave people the freedom to make their own choice, they would be better choices and in many cases would be cheaper. For example, instead of paying a support worker to take you to a football game as well as buying a tickt, a friend, family member or volunteer could be induced to do this for just the price of the ticket
Over the last few years as SDS has been introduced in Scotland, that has rarely been the case. Instead the use of Individual Budgets has been constrained by local authorities who have claimed that their duty to ensure the "public pound" is properly spent overrules thing else. Budgets can only be spent on areas approved by councils. 85 page contracts have been drawn up to support new "freedoms" which set limits on anything creative.
Now Glasgow City Council is proposing to give "providers" the freedom to do it differently. Read the proposal here No longer will providers have to provide a fixed number of hours for an Individual Budget instead as long as the needs of the individual are met, then the budget can be used to increase the wages given to staff so they can rise in line with the National Minimum Wage.
This proposal will be introduced in a pilot scheme for a range of adults in community care groups. But for people with learning disabilities it will make life much harder. Glasgow has made a range of reductions in support for peopel with learning disabilities. They started with a cut in people with learning disabilities budgets of an average 20% with the introduction of personalisation, followed by a 5 year freeze in the value of RAS support packages. Then a they shut most of the city’s day services. Now they now propose to make people with learning disabilities pay for the Tory’s National Minimum Wage by cutting their support packages even further while pocketing further savings in the meantime.
Its not completely clear in the paper but it seems to suggest that the new National Minimum Wage will cost £21 million and that this amount should be diverted from social care users support packages into paying the new wage level. There is then an indication at the , while there would be a further 5% reduction in total spend in support packages to be retained by the council. However a third set of savings may be generated “significant” reductions in council “administration and processes”
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland views this proposal with some concern. Support packages for social care users in Glasgow and in particular people with learning disabilities have been severely reduced over the last 6 years. This proposal takes the good idea of further social integration into the community but ties it to real pressures on social care. Providers are likely to have little choice but to go along with it. In the report it does not mention that they asked service users what they think of this process. Surely SDS is about the service user's choice and decision making. This appears to be completely absent from the proposal. We are really disappointed that Glasgow City Council are not turning their focus on the UK government who had introduced this policy of the National Minimum Wage but failed to fund it.
The Consultation on the need for a new Private Members Bill on Ending the Care Tax has now closed.
You can read our response to this by clicking here.
You can read a number of other responses by going over the Scotland Against the Care Tax website.
Last week, Shona Robison, the Health Secretary made an announcement of £6 million for Scottish councils as long as it was used to reduce social care charges. We understand that this money has been proposed as an anti poverty measure which will see the Income Thresholds raised in a number of councils. This is the level of basic income that people have to have before they start paying charges. The Health Secretary has suggested that 900 people will stop paying all care charges and 13,000 will pay less. A quick sum tells us that each person will be about £8.30 a week better off.
The £6 million is part of the additional £250 million that is being given to health boards to improve social care. Will it make a lot of difference? £6 million is roughly 15% of the total that councils raise in care charges so many people will still have to pay and we have already seen proposals in this year's council budgets to raise charges even more. We do agree this is a helpful first step but it would be helpful to know where it was a first step to.
However this does indicate the political pressure that has been building up on this issue thanks to the very strong Dundee and Angus based campaign for Frank's Law and the work of Scotland Against the Care Tax. This pressure is not going away so lets see what else develops when we see the parties' election manifestos in April. Read the Courier article here.
However we believe the Courier article is wrong to say that those that that pay for community alarms or meals with pay less. These are non means tested items that everyone who gets them has to pay for and are not affected by raising the charges threshold.
In our last newsletter we published a report on official government statistics published in November 2015 which showed that there had been slow progress with Direct Payments despite all the effort with the introduction of Self Directed Support. We said in the article that we couldn’t be sure until further statistics were published in 2016.
This additional information should have more on the other options included in Self Directed Support and allow everyone to make a better judgement on what has been happening- although the Scottish Government has already said that this information will be partial and will be published as “Data Under Development”. However Falkirk Council has contacted us to express their concern that these figures do not accurately reflect their work.
They have 24 people who are recorded as SDS Option 4 (mixed support options.) which if added to the 40 recorded in the Scottish Government statistics would mean that they had increased the number of Direct Payments users in 2014-15 to 64, an increase of 4 rather than a fall of 20. Other councils may be in a similar position.
The changed position for Falkirk is made clear in the chart below. The total number of Direct Payment recipients has increased in total by four in the last year. However it is also true that the total number of Direct Payment recipients in Falkirk has increased in total by only 4 since 2005. Overall hardly much of a change. In fact, if Falkirk had been following the national trend of 10% increase in Direct Payments year on year before SDS, there should have been 66 people on Direct Payments and not 64!
Source: Scottish Government Social Care Statistics 2015
Falkirk does have a very innovative Short Breaks service that really helps people make the most of respite opportunities. This is the kind of project that many other councils should develop to make the most of Individual Service Funds.
However the point of our article in December was to demonstrate that despite the large amounts of investment (Falkirk alone received £1.43 million from 2012 to 2014) and the new law and plenty of guidance, the landscape of choice for people who need support has not been radically changed. As we said in December “So far, the jury is still out on SDS and we will look forward to the publication of more detailed SDS information [later this] year.”
Another shocking story of everyday hate crime against people with learning disabilities in Scotland. Ivor Miller was waiting at a Glasgow street corner when a pack of hate filled young men and women started to taunt and punch him. A chase began which ended with Mr Miller falling out of a 2nd floor window. This dedicated hunt left Mr Miller in fear of his life and the gang waiting outside pubs he was hiding in until they could start the chase. On Tuesday, despite the judge calling the gang a "pack of animals" only one was sentenced to a custodial sentence, 3 others were give 150 hours community service and a fifth had their sentence deferred.
What led to Mr Millier sustaining serious fractures of his legs and back was an admitted catalogue of violence and abuse. However since only Mr Miller and his assailants were present in the 2nd floor flat where he had sought to hide and Mr Miller couldn't remember exactly what happened, the prosecution refused to press serious charges against his attackers. This case shows how the law lets down people with learning disabilities - where they cannot remember exactly what happened or are too scared to talk, then their attackers get away with lighter sentences.
However this case demonstrates another aspect that worries many people with learning disability. Mr Miller ran into 2 pubs to seek help and sanctuary. He got it in neither. In the 2nd pub, the Hootenanny, a barmaid threw him out of the pub into the hands of his pursuers even after he pleaded for her help. This case clearly demonstrates the need for "Keep Safe" places, a campaign being run by the I Am Me project to get more public spaces to know what to do when people with learning disabilities come into them seeking help and safety.