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Council prepares to adopt pioneering Self Directed Support system for adults with learning disabilities


Aberdeen City Council is preparing for changes to the way care is delivered and obtained by 650 adults with learning disabilities in the city.

Peter Albaston with Councillor Len Ironside, Tom Cowan and Emma watts (CASPA). As part of the Council's commitment to developing its approach to Self Directed Support, the 650 service users who are in receipt of a support package either delivered directly by the Council or funded by the Council, will shortly receive letters outlining plans to give them greater control over the services they receive.

The key feature of Self Directed Support is that service users, or someone acting on their behalf, will be told exactly what the financial value of the support they are eligible to receive is. That way they will be in a position to make decisions on how that funding is spent to support their needs. Traditional social care support might have been limited to options such as attending a day centre or receiving home care. In future the Council will be encouraging service users to make their own choices about their support.

The letters to be sent out shortly will explain how Self Directed Support works as well as explaining how an individual (and/or someone acting on their behalf) will receive a second letter at a later date detailing the financial value of the support they are eligible to receive. This value is known as the individual's Indicative Budget.

The Indicative Budget can be spent in a variety of ways depending on the individual's needs. They will be able to opt for support living in their own home with help having a bath or getting washed and dressed.

Out of the home it can be used to support an individual's desire to go to college, to continue in employment or take a job, or to enjoy leisure pursuits more. An individual might arrange for a personal assistant (PA) to help them attend local classes, go swimming, or be a volunteer helping others. The Indicative Budget could also be used to provide a short break (respite) or for equipment and temporary adaptations.

If the individual's care needs require them to stay in residential care, Self Directed Support will enable them to choose whether they would prefer to get support from a service provider such as a voluntary organisation or care agency.

Convener of Social Care and Wellbeing Councillor Len Ironside CBE said self directed support marked a major change in how social care would be delivered in the city.

He said: "This is a seismic shift in how we deliver social care in our communities, empowering professionals and users alike but I am in no doubt that it is for the right reasons.

"For years many of the individuals who are set to utilise self directed support have campaigned for the right to take control of their own lives and the support they need to live their lives as equal citizens, empowering them to contribute to their communities and their society.

"These changes do just that, it is about giving people more information about what is available to them, more choice and more control over how the care and support they receive impacts on their lives."

Cllr Ironside said any change in Council policy would inevitably have an impact on service users.

He added: "We want to raise awareness of the change to Self Directed Support for Adults with Learning Disabilities so that we can help the individuals and families involved to understand what this will mean to them.

"I would like to personally reassure every single person that they will receive support from the Council to work with these new arrangements."

Aberdeen City Council's Head of Adult Services Tom Cowan said a Self Directed Support Bill was currently passing through the Scottish Parliament which seeks to ensure adults are given more choice and control over how their social care needs are met. The Bill would place a specific duty on local authorities to automatically offer self directed support.

Mr Cowan said Aberdeen City Council was leading the way nationally in implementing Self Directed Support.

He added: "The whole ethos behind Self Directed Support is about helping people with learning disabilities to have greater choice and control over how their support is provided.

"It's about giving them genuine choices so they can use their budget to make decisions over what they wish to do and who they wish to spend time with.

"This is not about handing over cheques and leaving people to their own devices, it is about putting in place a system that enables them to have real choices and an input in their own lives.

"Every step of the way we will be working in partnership with the individual, those closest to them, their present providers and our Care Managers to ensure that the Indicative Budget meets the individual's assessed needs."

After months of consultation with service users Mr Cowan said there was a real demand for more control from service users, their families and others who love and care for them.

He said: "Over the last 12 months we have held a series of events both large and small with people with learning disabilities. A common theme in the responses has been a desire to have more control over what happens in their support arrangements.

"By implementing these changes, working with the individual, those closest to them and their present care providers I believe that we can deliver increased happiness and independence for people who have sought nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens for many years."

One service user already enjoying the additional responsibility is Peter Albiston, 29, from Aberdeen, who has recently moved from supported accommodation into his own flat in the city.

He said he was looking forward to having more choice and control over his care.

He added: "It gives me more freedom, more responsibility, more say in what I do. I really like my new flat and the independence it gives me.

"It's given me much more responsibility. I'm learning about cleaning and paying my bills. It's a step by step basis and I think it will really help me."

Emma Watson, vice chair of Care and Support Providers Aberdeen (CASPA), said Self Directed Support was designed to benefit service users.

She said: "Self directed support is a continuation of the person centred caring that providers have been trying to utilise for some time now. We look forward to working closely with the Council to deliver these changes.

"For service providers it's about changing the way we do business but ultimately it is about offering more choice and control to service users. That will undoubtedly benefit service users and that can only be a good thing."