Taking Control

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"Direct Payments have real potential for old lesbians, gay men and bisexuals," says Julie Turner of Kingston Centre for Independent Living. "Direct Payments mean that people can employ the Personal Assistants who they feel most comfortable with, whether for cultural or sexual orientation reasons".

Direct payments, a cash payment made by local authorities instead of providing direct services, was a major victory for the disability movement's struggle for Independent Living. Throughout the eighties and early nineties people had to go through the arduous process of individually negotiating with Councils to receive cash to arrange their own care. Thankfully in 1996 this was put on a legal footing.

Direct payments are important in empowering people. The disabled person manages how their needs are addressed and also as an employer, there is a shift in the relationship with the person who assists them. This worker has often been known as a "carer", a problematic term which also causes confusion with any unpaid helper, (a partner, friend or relative) who is also known as a "Carer". Now the preferred term for the worker is "Personal Assistant" who no longer "cares for" people. Rather they provide personal assistance, for which they are paid.

Anyone who is eligible for community care services, including those with age related impairments or mental health issues, are entitled to Direct Payments

To get a direct payment you need to be assessed by social services and they will decide if a person is eligible or not. They will also undertake an assessment to determine support needs - "we encourage people to do a self assessment beforehand and Independent Living Centres can advise with this" tipped Julie.

Direct Payments are not in addition to services already received, rather a way of allowing people a budget to make their own arrangements for some or all of their support needs. The tasks covered are Personal Care and practical tasks such as preparing meals, shopping, housework, getting out and about, and other support to live independently such as managing money, reading papers and letters if you have a visual impairment.

The disabled individual does officially become an employer but local Independent Living organisations or social services department often can help with recruitment, paperwork and managing rotas. To find out about your local direct payment scheme contact the National Centre for Independent Living Telephone: 020 7587 1663, email ncil@ncil.org.uk or look at the website, www.ncil.org.uk.

Contributed by Richard F

[ This posting originally appeared on the Polari website, www.casweb.org/polari. ]