Accessing your care and support through direct payments is a completely new – and often scary – landscape for someone who has been supported in residential care most of their life. It can also be a great opportunity for a disabled person to fine-tune exactly how they want to be supported and to use this change as a springboard into new opportunities.
When Livability reregistered one of its North East services, changing from residential to supported living, the new package gave each individual the funds for some 10 hours’ support every day. For adults with learning disabilities, this represented a challenge – how did they want to use this support? What new skills did they need to navigate having more control over their finances, or to get more active in the community?
‘The change in funding opened up more one-to-one support for people,’ says Michelle Earle, Acting Manager for Livability North East. ‘We worked with the people we support to look at some of the choices this gave them – did they want to keep doing it this way, or did they want to try that way? We were excited to support them through this as we could see how it would build their independence.’
Money management has been key for those receiving payments, and Livability staff have worked hard on this with those concerned to find a method that suits each individual. ‘In a residential setting, money management is largely taken care of by staff on behalf of the residents,’ explains Michelle. ‘With direct payments, it works in different ways with different local authorities. So one of our service users has a prepaid card, loaded weekly by the local authority. This card, which can represent a considerable amount of money, is then used by the person to withdraw money from the bank, monitored by a log-in by myself and the local authority.’
‘Others, like John and Ruth, receive their benefit via their own bank account, which means using a bank teller or cashpoint. John goes with staff to the bank and withdraws money, and this is monitored monthly by an independent company who ensure his finances are in line. Ruth visits the bank with staff support and uses a bank book to withdraw cash, just down the road from the charity shop where she volunteers. Gillian is supported to get to the high street, use her PIN number and record what she spends.’
Knowing how much you can spend leads to the next decision – what shall I spend it on? Livability works to enable people to access great connections in the community, so that they can tap into a wide range of opportunities. ‘We start by working with someone to find out their interests and dreams, and then connecting them with the right key worker who can help them access whatever it is they want to do,’ says Michelle.
And in the North East, what they want to do is – a lot of everything. Football, drumming, swimming, athletics, church groups, cookery, arts and crafts, working on an allotment and local radio involvement are just some of the new activities which direct payments have allowed disabled people to participate in.
But it’s not just about ‘doing stuff’. Staff see how getting more opportunities to learn and achieve has built confidence and wellbeing in the people they support. Doing more in the community means being included and making friends and connections. Ruth, who receives some of her benefits via direct payments, recently completed a 5k charity run 18 months after she started training in football and athletics at the local leisure centre. ‘Opportunities like this have really boosted Ruth’s confidence,’ Michelle says.
When an individual’s care needs adjusting, direct payments can make this process simpler and more responsive, as well as provide staffing continuity. One service user, who lives in his own home, finds change challenging and has recently been diagnosed with dementia. He has moved smoothly to a different care regime, thanks to the flexibility that direct payments offers, and the experience and consistency of Livability staff in helping him to identify what new support would help him thrive.
‘At Livability North East, we see direct payments as a great opportunity,’ says Michelle. ‘For the people we support, direct payments and support from Livability makes it all add up to more confidence, more independence, more self-reliance and more speaking your own mind.’