The Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 extended access to direct payments to 16- and 17-year-old disabled young people. A project carried out at the Norah Fry Research Centre, University of Bristol, sought to collate the work going on in this area; to highlight the main issues facing young disabled people who would like to access direct payments; and to produce a resource with and for young disabled people to promote take-up. Key findings were:
- The extension of direct payments to 16- and 17-year-olds aims to provide opportunities for young disabled people to increase their independence and choice.
- Some young disabled people saw direct payments as a potentially significant means to achieving greater autonomy and control but they were also concerned about the obstacles they would confront in trying to access them.
- There are a number of potential barriers to the successful take-up of direct payments for young disabled people. These include young people's lack of knowledge about direct payments.
- Social services departments have concerns about how well young disabled people will manage direct payments.
- One of the main ways in which young disabled people might use direct payments is to purchase personal assistance. This raises issues about how the relationship between young disabled people and their personal assistants would be managed.
A 'direct payment' is money given to people assessed as requiring certain kinds of support. It is paid by Social Services Departments. Direct Payments have been taken up by disabled adults as a way of buying individualised support services. Typically they have been used to get support at home and/or to pay for a support worker (often called a personal assistant).
The Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 extended access to direct payments to 16- and 17-year-old disabled young people from April 2001.
More detailed information about how direct payments work can be found elsewhere - for example, at www.ncil.org (the website of the National Centre for Independent Living). Box 1 gives examples of existing initiatives in this area.