More adults in Brighton and Hove who need extra help from the council are to be encouraged to decide exactly what services they should get.
Some people are already doing this, under the city council’s Direct Payments scheme, which it says is empowering them and improving their quality of life.
The new national Care Act asks local authorities to promote the scheme.
Rather than simply accepting services offered by the council to meet your assessed needs, Direct Payments means the council agrees a care budget with you and then lets you take charge of what it is spent on to meet your needs.
There are certain restrictions about who can provide the support and care, and obviously you can’t spend it on things like gambling or alcohol.
Catherine Young has MS (multiple sclerosis). She says moving on to Direct Payments has massively improved her quality of life.
“My condition is unpredictable – I have good days and also very bad days. Above all I wanted to be in control of exactly what support I get, who gives me the support I need and when they give it.
“Through direct payments I’ve been able to employ a personal assistant. She is very flexible in terms of the hours she works for me and basically helps me with whatever I need on the day.
“On a bad day it can be basic stuff like helping me get out of bed and in and out of the shower. On a good day it may be taking me to pilates or swimming – and then helping me get out of the pool! – or social things like going to see friends.
“She also does cooking for me, making big extra portions to put in the freezer so that I’ve got really nice, healthy food on the days when I can’t cook for myself.
“Before direct payments and my personal assistant I was in a very bad place both mentally and physically – eating all the wrong food and not feeling able to even leave my flat, let alone go swimming or see friends.
“Direct Payments has completely changed my life – I can hardly put into words what a massive difference it has made.”
The council funds the city’s Fed Centre for Independent Living to give people any help they may need with signing up to the Direct Payments scheme.
Catherine said: “The support I’ve had from the Fed has been amazing. There’s a fair bit of paper-work involved in setting the Direct Payment up, and there were days where I was simply not up to dealing with it.
“They’ve been incredibly patient and helpful, and it’s really reassuring to know they’re still at the end of the phone if I need any further help.”
All the detail is agreed by the council’s adult care team before they sign your Direct Payment scheme. From then on you are in control.
People who are on Direct Payments have an annual review with the council to ensure all is working well and that they are getting support that is appropriate to their needs.
The council’s director of adult services, Denise D’Souza, said: “Our top priority is putting people who have social care needs right at the centre of deciding what care they get and how it is delivered.
“Direct Payments gives people a degree of choice and control over the care they receive and a level of independence that would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago.
“It’s a fantastic scheme that we think could benefit hundreds more people who use our care services.
“These days it’s not so much about the council actually delivering care services as the council making sure the right care services are delivered to the people who need them most.
“We help fund the Fed and many other local community and voluntary sector groups to deliver services, and they do a brilliant job.”
If you feel you or someone you know has adult social care needs please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the council’s helpline on 01273 295555.
If you already receive adult care services you can also take the opportunity to discuss Direct Payments at your next review.