Self-directed Support: A Guide for Carers

A guide for Carers who are looking after someone who gets support from the local council.


What is a carer?

A carer is someone of any age who looks after a family member or friend who could not manage without this help. This could be caring for a child, parent, sibling, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems. The care they provide is unpaid.

All carers are in different situations - they may be looking after a parent with Parkinson's disease, a child with learning difficulties, a sister with an addiction to alcohol, a brother with bipolar disorder or a partner who has fibromyalgia, but all carers will share some basic needs. All carers need professionals and services to be able to recognise them as an individual and the changing needs they will have throughout their lives as they provide care. Carers are the experts in providing care to the people they are looking after, and should be treated as equal partners in care by professionals and services.

Good support for the person who is being cared for can also make the carer's role easier, as it means they can have a break, and a life outside of caring. This guide looks at how a carer can be involved in helping the person they look after decide on what sort of support they want and make sure it suits both of them, as well as how they can get support for themselves.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is for carers who are looking after someone who gets support from the local Council. If the person you care for gets support from the Council, part of what you do in caring for them could be helping them to decide what kind of support they want, or making sure that the support they get works for both of you and complements the care you provide to them.

This guide is also for carers who get, or who want to get, support from the Council to help them with caring. Carers can get support for themselves as part of the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. Carers should also have choice and control over support to help them in their caring role, and this law means that Councils can offer carers support in their caring role.

The Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 is an Act of the Scottish Parliament that ensures that local authorities offer self-directed support to anyone who requires support services, including unpaid carers who require support to help them maintain their caring role.

Self-directed support (SDS) is a way of providing support that means people are given choice and control over what kind of support they get. It means that people can choose and arrange some or all of their own support instead of having it chosen and arranged by other people.

It is not the name of a particular type of support service, but a way to make sure that care and support is better suited to the people who need it.

It means that more choice will be available for:

  • Who supports you
  • When you want to get support
  • The kind of support you want

SDS has been one of the biggest changes in the way care is provided, and many Councils have been offering a form of SDS to people for a number of years. From April 2014 all Councils in Scotland will have to offer SDS to people and their carers if they are going to provide them with support following an assessment.

How to use this guide

This guide shows carers

  • How they can direct their own support, looking at the whole process from assessment to support planning
  • The full range of options for how people get support
  • How support is reviewed
  • How they can be involved in choosing and planning the support for the person they are looking after, and how they can help the person they look after to direct their own support

You can read the guide from start to finish to get an idea of how the assessment process will work and the SDS options that are offered to you. Or you can pick a specific section that you are interested in and start reading from there. The glossary and sections on other support available will be useful for people who are new to SDS and are not sure about some of the words and phrases that are commonly used. There are also case studies throughout the guide that show how SDS can be used in practice.

Other sources of support

  • The Scottish Government has produced Statutory Guidance on Care and Support. This is for Councils and Social Work Services but you may also find it useful to understand more about SDS
  • Self-Directed Support Scotland (SDSS)( is a national membership organisation which actively promotes Independent Living by supporting, working with and championing the aims of Self-Directed Support disabled people's organisations. They raise awareness of SDS options among service providers and help them to deliver SDS options to service users
  • Carers Trust Scotland ( the largest provider of comprehensive carers support services in Scotland, reaching around 40,000 adult carers and more than 3,500 young carers (aged up to 18) from all groups and communities, through a unique network of independent carers' centres and young carers' services (Network Partners) throughout Scotland. To find your nearest carers' centre or young carers service, go to


Email: Heather Palmer

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