(Title Image: John Birdsall via communitycare.co.uk)
Later today, a Bridgend Council scrutiny committee will discuss the direct payments system (pdf).
Direct payments are fixed sums paid by the council to people who’ve been assessed as eligible to receive care. The payments enable them to pay for their own care needs and live more independently as set out in the Social Services & Wellbeing Act 2014.
According to officers:
“By offering a direct payment, and therefore the voice, choice and control over the care and support provided, will promote an environment that maximises people’s physical and mental well-being and by supporting children, young people, adults and their carers and families to fulfil their potential no matter what their circumstances, the wellbeing goals of a Healthier and more equal Bridgend and Wales are supported.”
At the start of 2019, 322 people in Bridgend county were receiving direct payments – an increase of over 100% since 2012. 87% of people receiving them had some form of disability (people with learning disabilities being the largest group of recipients), with just 10.3% receiving direct payments due to old age.
In total, just under £3.25million was spent by BCBC in 2018-19 (roughly £10,100 per applicant).
4.2% of adults in receipt of social care in Bridgend receive direct payments – slightly below the Welsh average – though the report says some councils have increased the rate to as high as 12%.
How does BCBC intend to improve the direct payments system?
BCBC undertook a review during 2017-18 and held a consultation with those in receipt of direct payments. As a result of this exercise, BCBC intends to introduce a number of changes over the next three years including:
- Improved training for social work teams so they understand how direct payments work so they can tell people who might be eligible in order for them to take more control over their own care.
- The development of a recruitment website so people receiving direct payments in Bridgend can advertise for personal assistants.
- Developing pooled budgets so small groups of people receiving direct payments can work together (i.e. to share the cost of transport, going out).
- Introducing a simplified direct payment rate of £12-per-hour for personal assistants instead of adding mileage allowances and other supplementary top-ups; it’s hoped this simplified system will make direct payments more attractive. This is expected to cost an extra £106,000 a year.
In what could be considered a bit of good news, BCBC has ruled out replacing some commissioned services (like day services) with direct payments.