Paying for the National Minimum Wage

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.

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