Brent Council Moves Ahead With Direct Payments Scheme

Seventy-four residents with learning disabilities are now on the scheme, which is up from 57 people in April when Brent Council had more than any other London borough.

Direct Payments allow adults who are eligible for social care from a local authority to receive money directly to choose and pay for their own care instead of accepting a council-run service. The Penderels Trust, an independent charity, is working with Brent Council to provide advice and support to those who sign up to the scheme.

The payment is put into a person’s bank account and he or she is responsible for how the money is spent. For example, the person may decide to use the money to employ a carer. However, the money must be spent on meeting that person’s care needs and cannot be used to pay for long-term residential care or a council-run service.

There are more than 500 residents with learning disabilities in Brent who are eligible for Direct Payments and Brent Council is aiming to have at least 80 on the scheme by March next year.

Angela Smith, who receives a Direct Payment from Brent Council, said: “I now have control over my life. I used to sit in bed waiting for the agency staff to turn up to help me get dressed in the morning. But now I draw up the contract and I’m not going to put up with any nonsense. I get the help to get ready in the morning and I can go out to work.”

Brent Council’s Director of Housing and Community Care, Martin Cheeseman said: “Direct Payments promotes independence and freedom of choice for a service user. It means they can pick the service to suit their own needs and circumstances, putting control control back into their hands.

“People on the scheme have already reported that it has given them more choice and an improved quality of life. Instead of the council telling its service users what care they need we put power into the hands of the client.”

In 2005 Brent Council set up the Brent Life Planning Scheme which employs support brokers to help people with learning disabilities to choose the care best suited for their needs.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) report on Brent Council’s Adult Social Services in 2005 identified increasing the number of service users on Direct Payments as an area for improvement.