Summary of report content
Healthwatch Birmingham investigated whether recipients of Direct Payments feel informed and supported by Birmingham City Council’s social care workers so that they can take control over the choice of services they access. Healthwatch Birmingham heard from 85 people across Birmingham using online questionnaires about their experiences of Direct Payments, including 37 service users, 34 carers, 4 third sector organisations, 1 individual services fund manager and 9 people who did not identify their affiliation.
The report found that clearer information from Birmingham City Council about their entitlements to Direct Payments is required. Service users and carers want to know what they should expect when they try to access, and then use, Direct Payments. In order to do this, frontline council staff need a clear understanding of Direct Payments, the support offered by services, targeted training and support to ensure that Direct Payment users receive consistent information and support. However, services users, carers and third-sector organisations all pointed to the complexity of the process and workforce capacity as factors affecting the timeliness of assessments and reviews.
Therefore, Healthwatch Birmingham concluded that Direct Payments may require a change in culture for staff at Birmingham City Council. It may require a shift in power, with recipients given more control and flexibility in their use of the funds. There has to be transparency and genuine collaboration with service users for Direct Payments to make a difference.