The Scottish Parliament recently passed the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 and royal assent was granted in January. The aim of the act is to empower people to direct their care themselves. People in need of support should have an informed choice and decide how much control over their support they wish to have.

The act gives people a range of options for how social care is delivered aiming, to restore control and responsibility to the individuals themselves.

The four choices are as follows:

  • Option 1 -  Direct payment - local authority make payment direct to the individual who then employs a carer.
  • Option 2 -  Person selects the support and local authority arranges it.
  • Option 3 -  Local authority selects support and arrange for its provision.
  • Option 4 -  A mix of the above.

The act affects all adults assessed as needing care and support under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, children who receive support under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the relevant professionals and statutory authorities involved in providing the support.

The driving force behind the act was a vision that those receiving care are put back at the heart of the decision making process and that the system becomes more personalised. While all of this seems to be a step in the right direction there remains concerns about how the new regime will operate in practice.

  • In the situation where an individual in need of support lacks capacity who will be responsible for directing their support? Will an attorney or court appointed guardian be able to direct care or would the local authority themselves appoint a "proxy" to assist service users in directing their support?
  • Does the act give power to allow the individual to employ family carers if desired? Are family carers able to deliver the level of support required?
  • Will the new process of assessing the financial award based on a points system (previously budgets were determined by the number of hours of support required) result in a fairer system? Will every Council adopt it?
  • Will the system be operated consistently across the different local authorities?

The act is expected to be fully implemented in April 2014 but with another five years given to allow full implementation the impact remains to be seen.