Why are we scared of SDS?

By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh 

A few weeks ago I attended a Highlands Brokerage Network meeting in Inverness and it got me thinking about self-directed support. We had a great discussion with lots of people from the Local Authority, care providers, advocacy organisations and housing providers with lots of positive ideas and input. We all saw the opportunity for SDS to put people in control of their own support and better enable them to achieve their goals and live the life they want. So why does it still feel so scary and difficult?

Self-directed support (SDS) is the umbrella term for types of care and support that are led and chosen by people themselves. It includes personal budgets, individual budgets, direct payments, Individual Service Funds (ISFs), personal health budgets and other types of budgets. That is of course part of the problem and we at Dosh spend a lot of time explaining all the terminology in our training and consultancy work. The amount of different legislation, from the 1998 direct payment regulations to the 2014 Care Act, also doesn’t help (although the 2013 Scottish SDS bill is a welcome piece of clarity). Ultimately though, I’m not sure this is the real issue, or at least not the biggest one. Much more, it’s our fear of the unknown and dislike of uncertainty.

At the brokerage network event, we were discussing what ‘brokerage’ is and had lots of different definitions. They included support to find services, managing SDS budgets, opportunities to transform support, creativity and community building, enablement… You may think that means we didn’t know what we were talking about, but I assure you we did! That is in fact the point – brokerage, and SDS more widely, is about all those things. In essence, it’s about values – empowerment, creativity and choice. People being able to live and lead their own lives with the support they need.

What I saw in the brokerage network discussion was these values coming through really strongly. In order to make SDS work we need to let these values and ideas flourish. We can get bogged down in working out the technicalities of how to commission services, fit with procurement regulations, or manage individual contracts. These are all things we need to think about, but without losing sight of the end and without losing all confidence in the idea.

If we focus on achieving flexible, personalised support for people, we can create the systems that enable that choice and encourage individuals and organisations to take up the opportunity it provides. After that, having different approaches and services around brokerage and SDS is surely a good thing, as long as we are clear what we are doing and people have choice in what services they want.

In our training to support professionals, we find a lot of people looking for the solution, the one answer that will make this whole SDS thing click into place. There’s a widespread feeling that everyone else knows more than us and has worked something out that we’ve clearly missed – there isn’t. There isn’t one magic answer and it isn’t without work, but if you’ve got the right values and aims then SDS can work. More importantly, it helps us all to provide people with the support they really want to live the life they choose.

Keep the principles in front and the rest will fall into place… and if you need a little support there are lots of people and organisations out there to provide advice, ideas and more formal support.

5 guiding principles for SDS

understand1. Be clear

If you are a support provider – what do you do? Ensure people can understand so they can make as many of their own choices as possible. This allows them to choose the right support for them in line with their goals and support needs.

choice2. Give people choice

The point is to give people choice so don’t regulate and restrict so much that you lose that.


unsure icon - image of a face looking concerned3. Be brave

New is scary, but it’s also not impossible


 Values4. Lead with your values

If you don’t lose sight of those, you’ll be going in the right direction.


In Print15. Focus on the individual

This is all about the individual achieving their goals with the right support, so talk to them and the people that know them. Think about what you do from their perspective.


We are always developing new projects, resources and support around SDS and we’d love to hear your ideas for what to do next. Get in touch to tell us how we can support you. You can also learn more about self-directed support in Scotland here: www.selfdirectedsupportscotland.org.uk


Written by Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager for Dosh

October 20th, 2016

Posted In: News and Blogs

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