The Principles of Self-Directed Support

Politicians are often accused of attacking each other for the sake of it. But this week they came together in a spirit of consensus to support the principles of the Scottish Government’s self-directed support bill, a piece of legislation which aims to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society have greater control over the care they receive.


The details of the bill have still to be ironed out and the issue of how councils will adapt to the changes and how much SDS will cost to implement must be addressed.


But it’s important that in the coming months we should not become too focused on the process of self-directed support as an end in itself.


Instead we must look at its ability to empower those using it to lead independent lives. One such example is Omar Haq, an intelligent young man with his life and career ahead of him. He graduated a couple of years ago with a master’s degree in human resource management and is currently looking for work. Omar has cerebral palsy and he spoke eloquently to the Health Committee which I convene about the positive impact having access to self-directed support has had on his life.


Of the Bill’s four options for self-directed support, Omar uses direct payments to employ a personal assistant. He described his personal assistant as fulfilling a personal need, enabling him to go about day-to-day activities including travelling by bus and helping fill out application forms.


Ultimately, the flexibility offered by direct payments enables Omar to take more control of his care and provides him with a greater level of independence.   


This striving for independent living is at the very heart of what the Bill is aiming to achieve.  In Omar’s case, then, it’s not the system of support which is important but what the system enables him to achieve.