"In our silos of confusion, the truth is quickly apparent: You're going to have to deal with this AND the Government isn’t going to help."
⏱️ 4 minute read
Scottish Government Self Directed Support legislation came into force in April 2014. This new legislation made it possible for people in receipt of statutory care in Scotland to make a choice between taking control of managing their own care budget and provisions, or, to have local authorities do it for them. The ‘self-directed’ care concept is routed in the principle that when people have control over their own care, and can define this in their own terms, this leads to better outcomes and a better quality of life for the individual. It’s not for everybody, but the evidence is that those who can certainly do!
Carr Gomm and Ember first got together to create a system called ClickGo which is an award-winning software platform that helps individuals to plan and manage their own care, including budgeted expenditure and specific care provisions. However, despite the legislation, the solid underpinning principles and the evidence in favour of self-directed support from other countries, the strategy has been an unmitigated failure in Scotland as reflected in the Audit Scotland’s damming report published in 2017.
The bottom line is that Local Authorities have a major problem with Self Directed Care. Not so much the principle, but the practicalities. At the end of the day, if a recipient spends all of their care budget on alcohol and cigarettes, the Local Authority is still responsible for picking up the pieces (and the costs) as the carer of last resort. This concern coupled with austerity and relentlessly increasing demand has made Self Directed Support a difficult subject matter for Local Authorities.
Our own experience of working with Local Authorities in respect to Self-Directed Support was that they feigned interest and did nothing. They saw the advantages for individuals, of course, but they fundamentally did not embrace the concept as a workable proposition. During our period of deep confusion – being encouraged by the Government on one hand but meeting stultifying Local Authority inertia on the other – our thoughts began to turn to the people who do not have statutory care support.
We were intrigued to find that these constitute the vast majority of people in receipt of care at home – but this need was being met, not by Local Authorities or the Third Sector but by a secret army of weary, yet valiant, foot soldiers – the Unpaid Carers. 6.5 million strong in the UK. We all know them, we all have them in our family and the chances are we will all become them at some point - and probably sooner than you think.
The penny fully dropped whilst listening to a Kaye Adams phone-in on Radio Scotland. We heard a heart-wrenching unpaid carer story. It’s a story of being emotionally and practically torn apart by two competing needs. The needs of a much-loved parent and the need to care for an equally cherished family and self. We have all seen this and most will experience this first hand. Just at the point where family life is at its most complex, careers are at their most demanding and energy levels are starting to wain – suddenly there is a realisation that Mum or Dad is going to need a lot more help.
First, there is a rush to statutory care – but things have not progressed to that level yet. Then there’s the phone calls at night as each family member has to be appraised of the situation and wants to help – but can’t quite make it. Then there’s the minefield of complications, emotional struggles, support agencies, applications, legalities, appointments, health conditions, allowances, medicines...
In our own little silos of confusion, we make each painful discovery one at a time, and finally the ultimate truth is quickly apparent: You are going to have to deal with this yourself AND the Government isn’t going to help.
In fact, its worse than that. The Government is going to actively avoid helping, because there is no room at the Inn and the money is being cut. This finally manifested itself in our own discussions about YooToo with Local Authorities as the conversation started to move towards its true destination from a Local Authority perspective – ‘Demand Reduction’.
Today there are more than 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK. 1.25 million are known as ‘Sandwich Carers’. People, disproportionately women, caught in the middle, between family, job and an ageing parent. Some are reducing their hours at work and failing to save for their own retirement. Some need more help from their family but don’t quite know how to ask for help. Most are overstretched and in need of a rest themselves.
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What if we could use digital technology to ease that burden somehow? What if we could share out all of the little tasks that need to be done and use the communication networks to keep everybody informed about what’s going on? What if we could ask everybody to make a contribution without an awkward conversation? What if we could watch over the person being cared for without them feeling as though they are being intruded upon?
That’s how YooToo was born.
Read next: Why YooToo is better than WhatsApp when it comes to your family
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