Care transactions
Care transactions

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Care transactions

5 Audio clip 4: Sarah Fletcher

Figure 3: Sarah Fletcher

At the time of the interview, Sarah Fletcher was 23 and disabled. She had just finished her degree in Social Policy at Loughborough University, and was taking a Masters' degree in European Studies, part time. She lived in a hall on campus, and got direct payments to fund 22 hours a week of care and assistance.

Sarah had a car and an electric scooter. Her car and wheelchair made it less tiring to travel to lectures around Loughborough's big campus. She wasn't eligible for an allowance from the Independent Living Fund, but she did have a grant from the Snowdon Award Scheme (for disabled people over the age of 16). This helped to pay for help with taking notes. She was also able to get extra help with academic work if needed.

At home, Sarah used her direct payment to pay family friends to help her. At university, she used a scheme run by the charity Community Service Volunteers (CSV). CSV ran a scheme for people aged between 16 and 35, who were interested in being full-time volunteers in health and social care. Projects included placements with adults with learning difficulties, young people at risk, and families in need. These required a commitment of between four and 12 months. In return for helping, volunteers received free accommodation, free food and a weekly allowance, induction and support as well as back-up from CSV. Sarah paid the university, which then passed on an allowance to the volunteers.

Sarah explained that using CSV volunteers was cheaper for her. Because she used the university scheme, she could save up some of her hours and use what was left from her direct payment funding to pay other helpers when she was at home. She paid £5.20 an hour, which she thought less than she would be paying through an agency. The CSVs got an allowance of £26.50, and their accommodation and food paid for. The balance of the payment went to CSV to cover administrative costs.

Sarah liked the CSV volunteers because they tended to be students like herself, and flexible in their attitude to working with her. Using the CSV scheme also meant she didn’t have to do any of the interviewing. That side of the work was done for her. However, the system didn't always work in the way she wanted. When it came to matching volunteers with users, she and the other disabled students were each sent a profile of someone who was offering to volunteer. If they turned someone down, they had to wait for another profile to be sent, which meant that sometimes the beginning of term got dangerously close while they were deciding. She also found that some volunteers didn't always match up to the details supplied. One of the CSVs she was working with was able to drive but, coming from Japan wasn't used to British-style roundabouts, so wasn't keen to drive Sarah to places off-campus. She and another student were looking into a scheme they had seen advertised in the Students' Union for driving and escorting. She had had a reply from someone who could help her for another five or six hours a week. In these ways she managed to get the help and support, eking out her direct payment funding.

Getting the direct payment in the first place wasn't straightforward. She was able to get help from the Derby Centre for Integrated Living, with things such as a form for assistants to sign which made it clear that the payments she was making included National Insurance contributions. This meant she could avoid the difficulties of having to calculate tax and insurance for the people who worked for her. Apart from that, there had been problems with her Social Services department's definition of what she needed the direct payments to pay for. For example, it was not prepared to pay for time spent getting to and from lectures, as this was deemed ‘academic’. Sarah had a struggle to persuade them that getting to social activities should also be included in her assessment.

Variations in direct payments policies meant that, while she was lucky with Derbyshire, which allowed her to ‘bank up’ her hours, other service users from neighbouring local authorities found that they lost any hours they didn't use up from their weekly allocation.

If you're ill sometime, you might need more hours over the week than you normally do. And, if they're off sick, you might be, you know, paying their hours anyway. But you'd need to pay somebody else as well.

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Transcript: Clip 4: Interview with Sarah Fletcher

Helen Robinson
Like Enid, Sarah Fletcher has often had to call on her family for help in the past. She's a disabled student, and now received direct payments. This means she can buy her own support services.
Sarah Fletcher
I need help with … I've got problems like … I can walk about, but I can't do all the walking about during the day to do all the different things, even though individually I could do lots of them, you know. So, I need help with washing and ironing and, I mean, if I was at home, I'd need help with pegging it out on the line. And I need help doing cooking and preparing meals, and tidying up afterwards. Because another problem I have is that I don't have that much energy. So I need help with things for that reason as well, more than I might do.
I use a wheelchair so, when I go out places, I need help with getting around. And I use some of my help like, so that someone else, someone I employ, can drive me, instead of me having to do the driving as well. And well, with things like cleaning and getting drinks, and well, things throughout the day … like fetching and carrying sometimes, or like tidying up and making the bed, changing the sheets, you know. And sometimes I have somebody help me wash and dry my hair.
Helen Robinson
Getting enough statutory support to lead a completely fulfilling student life has not been easy.
Sarah Fletcher
They wouldn't cover help getting to and from lectures, because they said that's like academic needs. So they weren't responsible for things like that. What they have funded me for are the 22 hours, which were very hard to convince them they had a duty to help fund … was help getting to social activities, and being able to participate, like. For instance, if I go swimming, then I need somebody to help me get there, and maybe help me inside the building, and put in the wheelchair, or going to the cinema … things like that.
Helen Robinson
She employs community service volunteers, who are also students at the university, to provide her with care.
Sarah Fletcher
With the way it works at the minute, I've got two different people help me, because they work five days out of seven. The way the university's arranged it’s … one person helps me Monday to Friday, and a different person on a Saturday and Sunday. And it could be worked out so that there was … I think, if I didn't get on with one of the people, then I could probably swap, so that it was a different one work with me - maybe … I'm not entirely sure - because they're still working around the same … they all live in the same halls as me at the minute … because most of the students that share in the scheme live in the same halls as me.
Helen Robinson
Sarah doesn't pay these volunteers directly. The university takes her allowance and directs it to the CSV’s Organisation.
Sarah Fletcher
What the CSVs actually get paid is £24 a week pocket money. And then they get their accommodation and food paid for. And then, because it's catered halls, CSV said that we should pay them £10 for food as well … so that they've got a choice to eat something other than the canteen food, when they want to. And the rest goes to the organisation for managing it.
Helen Robinson
It's not always simple to describe the kind of caring role that these volunteers perform for individuals like Sarah.
Sarah Fletcher
Direct payments is for funding personal assistance, care … whatever you want to call it. I feel strange saying personal assistance, but I don't … on the other hand, I don't just like just saying 'care', because lots of it’s not care, you know … I mean, doing your shopping and doing your ironing is not the same as say helping somebody get up and dressed in the morning. It makes it sound as if, in a way, you need more help than you do, you know.
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