The Social Care Evidence in Practice project recently put out a call to its social care practitioner network to submit proposals for a series of mini-projects with the aim of utilising current research evidence and applying it to key practice issues. Successful projects were awarded a small budget and mentor to facilitate their mini project. These projects are now underway and aim to report in September 2013. One of these projects was awarded to Rachel Dittrich, Research Manager, Strategic Policy Team for Adults, Hampshire County Council. Rachel’s project is looking at the innovative use of carers’ direct payments to reduce the risk of sudden carer breakdown, carers stress and carer incapacity, with the aim of providing practice guidance on what works.
One aspiration of the reforms of the care and support system is to allow individuals greater choice and control over their lives. In 2008 the revised Carers Strategy contained a commitment that everyone using adult social care, including carers, should be able to receive a personal budget. A direct payment is money given to disabled people and carers so they can arrange their own care package rather than have support services arrange by social work departments. This is in line with the personalisation agenda pushed forward in the care and support bill that aims to reform social care services to give people more choice and control of their lives and care.
To date, there has been little research on the impact of flexible, personalised social care arrangements on carers, and feedback on the use of direct payments with carers was mixed with some who said it had changed their lives for the better by giving them choice and control, and some feeling that they are forced into accepting the payments when they did not want them or did not fully understand how they work. A recent survey by the Carers Trust aimed to get the story straight on direct payments for carers. They found varying practices assessing carers and a lack of clarity on how levels of support for carers are defined.
As is the case in all care services, it would be difficult to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to using direct payments with carers. However it is necessary to get an idea of what does work.
This mini project will draw on current research evidence and literature around direct payments, collect best practice examples through an appeal to engaged networks and interviews and produce practice guidance that aims to explore:
- the benefits of an innovative approach to the use of direct payments by carers
- best practice and staff behaviour toward innovative use of direct payments, and
- the problems and barriers to using direct payments with carers.
George Julian, a knowledge transfer expert and Visiting Fellow within PSSRU at LSE, is mentoring this project and has put out a call for engagement to collect examples of innovative approaches to direct payments and carers. Any examples (big or small) are welcome and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to get as much involvement as possible to inform the practice guidance to be developed in this project. The guidance will be freely available on our project website in Autumn 2013.