Coronavirus (COVID-19) self-directed support: guidance - 11 March 2022

Version 4 of guidance on self-directed support during the coronavirus pandemic published on 11 March 2022.

3. Maximising Flexibility

The pandemic continues to be challenging for many parts of the social care system and for people in receipt of SDS. In response to these pressures, the Scottish Government expects Local Authorities to exercise maximum flexibility in the provision of support through SDS.

We expect that Local Authorities and Health and Social Care Partnerships will adapt to meet changing circumstances. This may be done by continuing to maintain their welfare function, by:

  • carrying out regular reviews;
  • holding good conversations and co-producing support plans with individuals and their support networks; and,
  • organising social care support to meet personal outcomes, including making use of community supports and assets.

This will help to ensure everyone understands what matters to the individual and how their personal outcomes can be met.

There should remain a requirement to demonstrate a clear link between items and services purchased and the personal outcomes identified and agreed in an individual's support plan, adult carer support plan, or young carer statement.

Local Authorities and Health and Social Care Partnerships should proactively communicate their approach to budgets for SDS Options 1 – Direct Payment and Option 2 – Directing available support budgets, in a clear and transparent way. This communication should also be shared with independent support organisations such as Centres for Inclusive Living, Community Brokerage services for disabled people, older people's organisations and carer centres.

A model contract for Option 2 has been developed by Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) to meet all legal requirements and can be either used as it is, or developed further to suit local circumstances.

3.1 Social worker autonomy

It is best practice to provide social workers with coaching and support to enable them to make decisions about budgets for an individual's care and support within agreed financial parameters, ensuring accountability and transparency. This approach provides frontline social workers with the flexibility to tailor the level of support that best meets individual personal outcomes in a way that matters to the person, reducing the timescales of any decision making process. This is in line with the Self-directed Support Framework of Standards, Standard 8 - Worker Autonomy.

Proportionate oversight is advised to streamline processes, reduce bureaucracy and speed up the time taken to deliver budgets, to arrange social care support, and enable changes to how an individual's budgets may be used.

3.2 Independent Support and Advocacy

The Support in the Right Direction (SiRD) independent support organisations can offer valuable independent support and advocacy to individuals and carers to enable them consider flexible, strengths-based support options. This includes offering advice in using Option 1 to meet outcomes and help to recruit, support and employ Personal Assistants.

SiRDs can also advise professional staff regarding community support options and independent care and support providers that are available locally. Local Authorities and Health and Social Care Partnerships should proactively ensure individuals and carers accessing or seeking social care support are aware of these organisations, enabling flexibility of choice. This is an overarching expectation, but is particularly important during the pandemic period.

3.3 Additional costs

Particularly during peaks of the pandemic, flexibility may result in employment of additional staff, payroll amendments and other associated administration for Direct Payment employers who are managing replacement care. Individuals who use their budget to pay for employment support (payroll providers etc.) and incur extra costs should be able to use their Direct Payment to cover these costs.

The Financial Support Arrangements for Social Care Providers guidance details how support for social care providers should be maintained, and what additional costs can be supported. This guidance is only for services that are delegated to the Integration Joint Boards as it is linked to the political agreement to meet reasonable additional costs through the Local Mobilisation Plans.

3.4 Incapacity

Where it has been assessed that a person does not have capacity or the ability to manage their own finances or the ability to make decisions about their own social care support, and they do not have a Power of Attorney or financial guardian, this flexibility will not be appropriate in some circumstances (in accordance with the Regulation 8(1) of the Self-directed Support (Direct Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 2014). In this case, Local Authority Social Work Services should refer to the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and advocacy to support any decision making on behalf of the person. The professional judgement of social workers should ensure all decisions made on behalf of the individual are shared and discussed with the individual's support network.

3.5 Underspent Budgets

Where Local Authorities or Health and Social Care Partnerships have concerns about underspend of allocated budgets, these should be reconciled in line with local contractual arrangements. To ensure reconciliation is done accurately and transparently, providers and Direct Payment holders should keep a record of decisions made, (e.g. deployment of staff, additional costs incurred) with a transparent and clear link to individual care plans (or adult carer support plans or young carer statements). All unspent funds in Direct Payment accounts should be returned to the Local Authority or Health and Social Care Partnerships in the usual way.

It is acknowledged that Local Authorities or Health and Social Care Partnerships may have made local arrangements with providers about reconciling unspent funds, this SDS guidance is not intended to cut across those arrangements.

3.6 Contingency planning

Contingency planning for support and use of budgets should be in place for all Direct Payment social care support packages. In accordance with good practice (see section on contingency planning for individuals who employ Personal Assistants (PAs) in UK Government's guidance for Local Authorities in the delivery of Direct Payments), these existing contingency plans should be reviewed for their relevance during the pandemic.

Consideration of the individual and their support network's general welfare, health and wellbeing should also be taken into account in contingency planning. The individual and their carers' views are paramount in developing this plan to ensure that risks are jointly identified and mitigated.



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