Self-directed Support

At Social Work Scotland we’ve led the co-production of a framework of standards to support the implementation of Self-directed Support. The SDS Standards have been developed to ensure social workers are empowered to practice in creative, and innovative ways which allow people to have greater choice control in their own lives. The SDS Standards support social workers to explore ‘what matters’ to a person, not ‘what’s the matter’, and together find the right way forward.  

We believe Self-directed Support is not new or something to learn, it is not about resource allocation frameworks, and it is not only about an offer of 4 options. Crucially, Self-directed Support is about the implementation of core social work values of human rights and relationships in practice, and it empowers social workers to be autonomous in exercising their professional judgement, and using their own knowledge, skills and abilities, in partnership with supported people. 

In the future, we want to see social workers feeling more confident and enabled to use Self-directed Support to work more collaboratively with supported people, and to co-design personalised support for people and their families uninhibited by structural barriers and inflexible systems. 

Social Work Scotland’s Self-directed Support team – commissioned by the Scottish Government, have developed the draft standards alongside a learning review, which was carried out by an independent researcher, outlining the team’s journey of consultation, engagement and research.

Our Approach

We are supporting local partnerships to implement the national Self-directed Support standards in three ways:   

  1. Self-directed Support starts with the relationship of the supported person with their social worker, so we provide focused support to selected local partnerships towards implementation of Standard 8: Worker Autonomy.  
  1. A dynamic Community of Practice provides a place for all local partnerships to learn together about what works, and to work together on finding solutions to the challenges of transformational change. 
  1. In the National Collaboration space, all national Self-directed Support stakeholders can collaborate on their work to develop best practice across Scotland, and contribute to the development of the national Self-directed Support framework. 

What we’re currently working on

With our partners in the National Collaboration, we’re supporting specific areas of development, including:  

The National Self-directed Support Library  

The library contains tools, resources and practice examples to support practitioners and leaders with the implementation of Self-directed Support locally and nationally. The library’s materials align with the Self-directed Support standards, and has input from a range of groups and people, including those who direct their own support. We will continue to help develop the library promoting its use amongst all Health and Social Care Partnerships and local authorities, adding new resources and also identifying any gaps in content. 

Personal Assistants (PA) 

We’re working alongside the Scottish Government’s Personal Assistant Programme Board to help ensure Personal Assistants are fully recognised as members of the Social Care workforce, and to support the unique relationship between the PA employer and the PA. Our specific contribution is in working with local authorities and partnerships to improve the direct payment offer, and ensure some consistency across the country. 

Statutory Guidance to accompany the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 Review 

Together with other interested people and organisations, we’re contributing to a Scottish Government short life working group to review the Statutory Guidance. Our work on the Self-directed Support Standards, learning from our focused implementation work with three local partnerships and involvement with other stakeholders in the national collaboration space will inform this work, and ensure relevance and prominence as the National Care Service develops. 

Tailored Self-Evaluation 

We are developing an approach for local authorities and partnerships to evaluate themselves against the Self-directed Support standards that are most relevant to local improvement work. We hope it will help clarify what good Self-directed Support looks like for them, and how to achieve best practice.   

Standard 12 : Access to Budgets and Flexibility of Spend 

Together with other professionals from social work, social care and finance, we have developed a Standard to support a greater degree of consistency and flexibility of spend for budgets, and a fair and equitable system for workers to access and spend budgets in line with people’s agreed personal outcomes.   

Feedback from our collaborators

“The SDS Project Team has offered substantial clarity and guidance… It offers a vehicle for a national conversation about what works and where there are challenges… Local decision making will inevitably lead to variance in practice but the SDS Project Team offers an opportunity to learn from others so that differences can be minimised.” 

“The last 2 years have been extremely challenging for everyone – especially those in need of support. The [SDS] Project Team has worked extremely hard to achieve their aims and have identified the need for further progress to be made. The next 1-2 years could present great opportunities for taking forward the learning from working through a pandemic and the creativity that has emerged from this. Commissioning is very challenging as is recruitment into the social care workforce. Opportunities for different solutions are part of the recovery process and the Standards can help with this” 

“[During Covid, the SDS Project Team] has ensured communication lines remained open. Consultation with Local Authorities has remained consistent and has provided a good level of support throughout what were and remain very challenging times.”  

Working with the SDS team has made a huge difference to the work we have been able to do… as we have benefitted from their knowledge and expertise… They have a passion to improve SDS for people who need it and that comes over well” 


Jane Kellock