Developments in support for people who pay for social care via direct payments

We caught up with those who decide on what support is available to help people who pay for their social care to find out how experiences people shared with us have shaped support available.

What we did

Last year we worked with Healthwatch Richmond to find out about people's experiences the Direct Payment Support Service and whether it meets their needs. The Direct Payment Support Service helps people who want to choose a service to help them with their social care needs by paying for this service themselves through money the council has given them. The support service helps people organise, manage and spend money on paying for help like a personal assistant or carer.

Find out more here in our report.

Richmond and Wandsworth Councils (RWC) wanted to hear service user views before they decided on what they will ask the service to be doing in a new contract from 2023. We caught up with the Commissioning Team to find out what they will be improving and how this relates to what people had told us during our work last year.

Key Changes

  • RWC spoke to other groups and staff to understand the issues more. The main points from the experiences of users reflected in the Healthwatch work was used to draft a new specification for the service. This specification is how RWC sets requirements and expectations for the service that they will be accountable to. 

The following requirements are going to be built in to the service that reflect what people told us:

  • The service will be expected to be more creative in innovative in what support it gives to people and how it makes sure people get what they need. This reflects what people had told us about the need for flexibility in what support is available and what they can spend their money on. Many people used the service only for care support, rather than other things like transport and equipment and other things that the service could help with.
  • In providing information and advice, the service should make sure they help people manage and sustain their independence and should work with local community organisations to make sure information is available and understood. One aspect of the service will be providing Personal Assistance and Employment support and they will be using peer support to improve information available to people. This reflects a development to meet the needs we identified because we found that the people we spoke to often didn't fully understand what the service could help with or how they could spend their direct payments and many wanted more clarity.
  • We found that people wanted a better system to manage payments and accounts. The new service will be expected to increase clarity about the system for payments and accounts. The system should be accessible in various formats including an online platform. This will link to an account management service which is being reviewed in collaboration with carers, service users and advocates and family members.
  • We found that people who had support from families or others had a different experience to those who were more isolated. The service will now be expected to have more focus on support for people who are isolated or living alone. For example, using peer support and to connect to friendship groups and community groups and more innovative approaches.  
  • We suggested that a holistic approach to supporting the needs of people was needed. The new service will be expected to focus on the specific and changing needs of the clients, starting by looking at what people can do, rather than what they can't do. The service will look at how people can be supported to use their own strengths and how isolation can be reduced and independence can be increased.

What's next?

The changes made will happen from 2023 when the new contract starts. We will continue to monitor changes made to the Direct Payment Support Service.

The Healthwatch work and conclusions helped us to develop the specification, which defines the scope and expectations of the service, so that it more closely meets the needs of the people that the service helps.
— Dawn Patrick, Policy and Projects Officer, Commissioning Programme and Business Intelligence, Adult Social Services Commissioning, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils

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