User-led brokerage

Here’s a guest blog from Simon Taylor (Simon@sharedlivesplus.org.uk),  who supports our micro-enterprise members:

“It’s sometimes hard to stay positive about the changes in social care, but meeting Becky Daykin from Notts Independent Living Consultancy ensures that you will. Despite the challenges, along with her business partner Sarah Moakes, Becky has stepped from the world of social work to be a part of the practical changes ensuring personalisation can offer real choice.

Together they now run a new micro-enterprise which combines their thirteen years of experience to assist people in setting up and manage Direct Payments. They offer support and advice on being an employer, recruitment, setting up payroll and employment contracts etc. They also offer training for personal assistants, organisations and corporate businesses about disability, equality and deaf awareness. All their staff are disabled and receive either Direct Payments, a Personal Budget or Disabled Students Allowance.

Becky herself is Deaf.  Others often see this as a barrier but it is not the barrier she is most concerned about when she speaks of her experience in running her business, where the real struggle is with Local Authorities to make better use of micro-enterprises in delivering small local services.

She commented, “Too often Deaf People are seen as not able to manage their own budgets and are directed by the social work professionals towards managed budgets. This means they are not being referred to our service.”

In Becky’s experience, when she has scored highly in a tender for one such authority, she was still not eligible based on the financial section, a problem many micro-enterprises without financial resources or track record can experience. The thing that concerns Becky is that professionals are being misled or are assuming they can only give users the information about providers on preferred provider lists. Although this is not the case it is still creating a real problem in terms of choice and control. The authority may feel in control but they are not effectively offering control to service users.

Becky’s answer is not to be defeated but to continue to provide direct payment support services whilst also developing a manage budget package for people and local authorities to use. Also she sees the role of developing training for care professionals, especially local authorities, as essential. This helps to highlight the changes desired by people with sensory impairments and helps people see personalisation as a real instrument for choice.

Shared Lives Plus’ sister organisation, Community Catalysts, works with one of the local authority areas which Becky serves. Here a worker is funded to support local micro-enterprises and set up the local forum of which Becky is a member. Becky said, “The forum is a great source of information about the changes at the authority but frustratingly too few of the excellent providers involved are known by the workers or receive referrals from the authority.”

Becky firmly believes that service users can also be providers of services and ensure that real and accessible choices are available. When local authorities stop acting as sentries to these new approaches the changes personalisation promises can be realised.

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