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Cumbria Direct Payments Scheme Evaluation

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects


The Cumbria Direct Payments Project (DPP) was established in 2000 with the aims,

To promote and increase greater independent along with greater choice for those people who are eligible to receive a Direct Payment;

That the Scheme will be developed as part of the County Council's mainstream business

That the scheme will become institutionalised into the working of the relevant professionals within two years

In October 2001, the DPP commissioned Lancaster University to evaluate the implementation of direct payments in Cumbria.

Nationally, the government were committed to making direct payments a cornerstone of future community care services. Key principles involved were that community care and direct payments should empower people by providing them with independence, choice, control and flexibility. The Department of Health also emphasised that adopting such principles would require a culture change within local authorities.

Social Services Inspectorate standards for the support of independent living emphasised that social service authorities should work in collaboration with service users and their organisations.

While Cumbria Social Services' approach appears to have taken many of these matters into account within their implementation of direct payments, a key question for us in evaluating the DPP was the extent to which this was a temporary phenomenon associated with a time limited project, or whether these underlying principles had been absorbed within the authority as their aim was to include direct payments as part of their mainstream activities.

The evaluation involved face-to-face interviews with direct payment users, Social Services staff, DPP staff and steering group members, and provider agencies. We were also provided with some statistical data by Social Services and the DPP, and with the results of a telephone survey carried out by the DPP earlier last year.

Our overall conclusion is that Cumbria County Council have been successful at beginning to implement direct payments in the county. There is still much work to be done, but given the effectiveness of the collaboration between the Social Services, the Chief Executive's Department and the organisations and individuals represented on the DPP Steering Group, there is much potential for the implementation to continue to succeed.

In comparison with other counties, Cumbria appears to have performed well over the first two years. Other authorities that have been successful have also adopted a collaborative approach. Indeed, since the Community Care award, the DPP have received enquiries for advice from many authorities where they have failed to implement direct payments.

The success of this partnership approach is not simply one that can be gauged by counting up the numbers of people taking up direct payments. There is a discernable change taking place in he culture of Social Services in Cumbria as a result of their development of partnership working. This implementation of one particular scheme, direct payments, has provided the structures through which partnership with service users and voluntary organisations can be used to assist in the development of other aspects of community care services.

Research staff: Jayn Pearson

Publications/Outputs: Report