Below is a post written for Outside the Box in Scotland, ahead of their Permission to Dream event next month on how people across Scotland have been getting on over the first year of Self-Directed Support.
Last year, Outside the Box ran a series of great events on what the new Self-Directed Support Act (2014) might mean for mental health in Scotland. The events brought together a range of people from across the mental health system: people who use services, families, carers and representative organisations; social workers; team managers; commissioners and providers. As a result, the conversations were rich and engaging.
One thing that struck me during people’s discussions was that very few people thought the health and social care system was working for people with mental health problems as it was. This feeling wasn’t limited to just social care outcomes and people’s mental health themselves: it included what opportunities people with mental health problems had in areas of life like housing, employment and fairly accessing welfare support.
The question before everyone was clear: how do we make things better? The Self-Directed Support Act 2014 is a major part of the answer. The Act aims to empower people to have control and responsibility over how their care and support is arranged, including offering people different choices for organising their care. (You can find out more information about the Act on the Getting There website.)
Henry Ford famously said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” The Act is therefore a really good chance to do something differently. A really interesting question for everyone with an interest in the mental health system to ask themselves is: what can they do differently as a result of the new SDS Act?
Here are a few suggestions (you can find more in this practice paper on the Getting There website):
- For people who use services, this could mean finding out more about the Self-Directed Support Act so you know what your rights are and how to access the support available to live the life you want.
- For a frontline practitioner, this could mean working in partnership with a person rather than thinking of them as someone to assess and put in place a package for. This could include thinking together beyond the usual menu of ‘traditional’ services people might access.
- For team managers, it could mean creating regular opportunities for their team members to talk about the good things they’ve done as a result of self-directed support, or to talk about the challenges this new way of working brings and enabling people to support each other to address those challenges.
- For people who commission services, it could mean knowing how much money was spent on what types of mental health support and then explicitly aiming to change this over the next 3 years, responding to the different choices that people make.
The pressure and constraints that currently exist in the mental health system sometimes lead people to think they can’t do anything themselves to make things better – it’s “beyond their control”. The places that make the most progress are those where as many people as possible take the opportunity to do something different in their part of the system and give it a go – no matter how small a change they personally make. Let’s all of us use the opportunity of the Self-Directed Support Act to help improve the lives of people with mental health problems.