Inclusion Scotland

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Monday, 14 May 2012

Scots requiring social care services should have a right to be represented by an independent advocate to ensure they have full control of their care, charities have said.

A new law designed to give Scots with disabilities, learning difficulties, mental health problems and dementia more control of their care should also give them the right to independent advocacy, the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance has said.

This would ensure that people understand their right to choose which organisations provide their care as well as what type of care they require – from full residential care to access to better sports and fitness classes.

The organisation said the right to independent advocacy should be part of the new Self Directed Support Bill, in a similar way that the Mental Health Act provides this right for people with mental health problems.

Responding to a parliamentary committee enquiry into the Self Directed Support bill, Shaben Begum, director of the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance, said: “The principles of this bill need to be clearly defined making it clear that under self-directed support the person’s views will be taken fully into account, their rights will be upheld, any support provided will be informed by what is most important to the person, and that the person will be empowered to have control over their life and the support and care they receive.

“Independent advocacy is an integral part of this process and therefore a right of access to independent advocacy should be included as a principal in the Bill.”

Self-directed support is a form of personalisation of care services that aims to ensure that disabled people are fully integrated into society and can live independently.

It means they could chose to employ a personal assistant to help them do normal things like shopping, socialising and sports activities instead of spending their days in a day-care centre, for example.

The Bill aims to make self directed support a right under legislation. It provides four choices to individuals: to purchase their own care through direct payments, to choose their care provider but leaving the budget in control of the council, to let the council both choose and pay for the provision, or a mixture of the three previous options.

Some organisations, however, have raised concerns that the budgets will be different depending on which option is chosen, which would result in different levels of service.

This echoes concerns that some local authorities already see direct payments as a method of reducing costs.

In Glasgow, where self-directed support has been rolled out across the council a number of service users have complained that they are getting less support than previously.

Dee Fraser, of the Coalition of Care and support Providers Scotland (CCPS) said: “Our concern is that as it is currently drafted, the bill will not prevent the situation currently common among local authorities, where the amount of available resource for a person’s support differs depending on whether a supported person takes a Direct Payment or has as service arranged for them.

“For example, many local authorities have a fixed rate for Direct Payments which is considerably lower than the rate they pay to service providers.”

Scottish Care, which represents independent health and social care providers in the private sector, also said a majority of its members are concerned about whether council staff should be given responsibility to organise care packages at all.

Ranald Mair, Scottish Care chief executive, said: “Whilst we recognise the central role of local authorities, and that many individuals will want to pass significant control to the local authority, members argue that there needs to be transparent accountability in this regard. Can an LA be both a provider of care and a facilitator of independent choice?”

The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee are currently considering the Self-Directed-Support Bill at Stage 1. Written evidence submitted to the committee can be found on its page on the Scottish Parliament website.

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