Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tuesday 22nd July 7.30pm

Scrutiny Overview Committee

This meeting was the day after the Council meeting and as Councillors Scully & Kennedy are both members of this committee I was interested to see whether cross-party working relations had soured or if Cllr Scully was minded to kiss and make up. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to find out as neither attended the meeting.


This was a shame as the main item for scrutiny at the meeting was Direct Payments. The Health & Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee had identified this as an item for scrutiny as Direct Payments have the ability to transform the lives of people with disabilities by giving them both control & flexibility over the services they access. However in Sutton there has been a low take up of the service and it was agreed that we should investigate the reasons for this. However the topic was appropriated by the Scrutiny Overview Committee because of its remit across both adult and children’s social services, and because of its importance. Some concerns had been expressed about the change of committee looking at Direct Payments, as the Health & Wellbeing Committee had members with specialised knowledge of the area – most notably Cllr. Abigail Lock, who works for SCOPE the disabled charity, and Ted Gates of SCILL & Mavis Peart (People with Learning Disabilities rep) who are Special Advisors to the H&WB committee. Indeed Ted had written to me and the chair of Health & Wellbeing Scrutiny making this very point. However as the Scrutiny Overview Committee includes some of the more senior members of the council, and with Ted Gates invited to give evidence, it was hoped that the topic would be addressed with sufficient weight.


As Carers Champion I have had opportunity to hear about carers’ feelings on Direct Payments. One of the issues that has arisen more than once was the fact that a user of a service that is paid for via Direct Payments becomes the legal employer of the person providing that service. This brings with it all the responsibilities any employer has and it can be a very daunting prospect for the user. I asked some questions of the panel around this issue.


It was obvious from questioning and the information provided that there needed to be better communication of the benefits of direct payments both to service users and staff, better structures put in place to bring together Children & Young Peoples Services & Adult Social Services, and to look to other authorities for ideas of how to improve take up of Direct Payments.


As also became clear during the meeting, Direct Payments requires additional administrative input when compared to a system where Social Services just determines the services provided. I therefore asked whether the Government provided any additional funding to meet this additional expense – as it is a Government initiative to offer Direct Payments. The answer was no. I then needed to ask whether this meant that the overall funds available for services had to be reduced to cover the administrative costs of managing Direct Payments. I was very pleased to hear that in Sutton this was not the case and the administration fees were absorbed by the resources department rather than social services.


The issue of Criminal Record Checks for personnel employed using direct payments came up and it was agreed that clarification was needed about the Council’s responsibilities in this matter.


It is expected that further scrutiny of Direct Payments will continue at the next meeting of this committee.


September 3, 2008 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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