Self-directed Support

In 2021, we led the co-production of a framework of standards to support the implementation of Self-directed Support. The SDS Standards were 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 four 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.  

In 2023-2024, Social Work Scotland’s Self-directed Support team has been funded by the Scottish Government to take forward improvement workstreams focusing on priorities set by the SDS Community of Practice (social workers, managers, leaders and other people working in local government interested and engaged in SDS implementation and improvement) and embedded in the national SDS Improvement Plan launched in June 2023.  

Our Approach

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

Involving local innovators and national stakeholders in improvement workstreams focused on specific priorities set by the Community of Practice.  

Supporting a dynamic Community of Practice providing 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. 

Joining our voice with others in the National Collaboration space, where 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 and Community of Practice, we’re supporting these workstreams:   

Workstream 1 – Review of SDS standards 

This is about making the standards relevant to all care groups, and linking to practice resources.  

Supported people, carers, children, families and parents, regardless of the reason they require support in their life, should feel the SDS Standards speak for them. The revised Standards and related practice guidance will help the different professionals in the system better understand their part in implementing good SDS, and more able to fulfil this. 

Workstream 2 – SDS Practice resources 

This is about the tools we need to practice good SDS. 

An SDS Toolkit for practitioners, co-produced with stakeholders, will help social workers access SDS practice resources in the SDS Library and beyond. More practice guidance will follow, based on learning from the review of SDS Standards. 

Workstream 3 – Self-evaluation and improvement 

This is about learning how to do SDS better. 

A self-evaluation framework and practice guidance is in development to help local areas take a learning-based approach to evaluation and improvement planning around SDS.  

Workstream 4.1 – Direct Payment model agreement 

This is about fair and equitable provision for Personal Assistant (PA) employers.  

A national model Direct Payment agreement will ensure direct payments include support which maximises strong mutual relationships between the Personal Assistant employer and the PA and promotes consistency across Scotland. The model agreement is being coproduced by SDS stakeholders including employers of PAs, independent support organisations and local authorities.  

Workstream 4.2 – Personal Assistant wellbeing 

This is about supporting Personal Assistant employers and Personal Assistant’s wellbeing 

PAs and PA employers will have access to wellbeing resources which are available to the wider social care and support workforce. The annual PA Survey identifies what could best support PAs, and is being used to inform this work.  

Workstream 5 – Relationship-based practice 

This is about moving from care management to relationship-based practice that focuses on what matters to the supported person, and plans for good person-centred outcomes. 

Capturing examples of relationship-based practice and the impact it makes from all of our workstreams, we will take forward work on relationship-based practice next year.  

Workstream 6 – Budget approval processes 

This is about redesigning processes so that approval for personal budgets is straightforward, and delays are designed out.  

Learning from local and national work on Resource Allocation Systems, we will take forward work with local areas on budget approval processes next year.  

Workstream 7 – Training and practice development 

This is about developing supportive approaches to skills-based training, reflective supervision and practice development that nurture confidence in our workers.  

As a first stage, research commissioned by Social Work Scotland will explore the SDS training and practice development that is available to social workers in Scotland. 

What our collaborators say

“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.”  

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”.  

“The team has been great and nothing has been a bother. The benefits of working with them has been their focus, knowledge, experience, drive and energy. The team has been supportive and positive. There has been learning for all of us and sharing of wider knowledge.” 

“Absolutely, we have benefited and can’t stress enough that if the team hadn’t been in place then we wouldn’t have made the progress that we have. Having the authority of the project team, which is supported by Scottish Government, has given the work we are doing locally great credibility – we wouldn’t be here without them.” 


Jane Kellock