Direct Payments in Birmingham: Choice, control and flexibility
Healthwatch Birmingham’s latest report Direct Payments in Birmingham: Choice, control and flexibility highlights the experiences of local citizens using Direct Payments to access social care support and services.
- Citizens want clearer information and choice about their entitlement and use of Direct Payments.
- Council staff need a better understanding of Direct Payments, and services that can support people, to enable them to effectively inform citizens.
- Real collaboration between the Council and citizens is needed to ensure Direct Payments is truly person-centred.
In our recent investigation recipients of the payments, their carers and third sector organisations told us about issues such as a lack of clear, consistent information and guidance about people’s entitlement to the payments and the support needed to guide people through the process. People want choice and control over how their payment can be spent. We also heard about the need for people to have freedom to plan flexible ways to meet their care needs. It was clear from recipients’ feedback the importance of assessments and reviews being person-centred and timely including the improvements needed to provide accessible ways for people to learn and manage their payments.
One Direct Payment recipient, said: ‘In providing information and advice to Direct Payment users, the provider should consider the way that they communicate with people. I have been asking to be sent emails for a long time but until today they just send me information in a way that is convenient to them.’
The Care Quality Commission’s Local System Review in 2018 highlighted that fewer people in Birmingham receive Direct Payments compared to national figures. Clearer information, consistent support and guidance by Council social workers and diverse ways to inform and communicate with citizens are needed to increase the uptake of Direct Payments.
Healthwatch Birmingham shared the findings with Birmingham City Council, who have outlined planned work programmes and actions within the report to improve the experiences of people applying for and in receipt of the payments.
Pauline Mugridge, Assistant Director of Community Services at Birmingham City Council stated: “Birmingham City Council welcomes the report, which will be used in developing ongoing improvement plans in Direct Payments. It highlights the importance of citizens being in control of their choice of support services and these findings will be useful in shaping the future customer journey and support the roll out of associated work programmes. This includes the Three Conversations, Neighbourhood Networks and the Locality Models.”
Councillor Rob Pocock, Chair of Birmingham’s Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee said: “The research undertaken by Healthwatch Birmingham on Direct Payments has contributed helpful and insightful evidence to the work of our Scrutiny Committee. An effective Direct Payments scheme is one of the City Council’s key performance requirements, and our Committee is keeping a close eye on how effective and appropriate the scheme is for service users.”