When Lisa Lecky from Belfast had a brain haemorrhage, she was 10 weeks pregnant with her second child.  One of her biggest worries was how her mother, Maeve and partner Adam would be able to cope with caring for both her, their one-year-old son and their new baby.

Today, Lisa and her mother, Maeve, are able to enjoy Lisa’s baby daughter, Orla, with the help of a new social support care initiative called Self Directed Support.

“Self Directed Support has made a massive difference to the quality of life my mother and I can have.  I decide what sort of help we need when we need it and how this help is provided.  I get a Personal Budget and use it  to pay for 10 hours a week of one-to-one support for me and my baby and this has really helped my mother who now gets a break from her caring duties every week and is able to get some ‘me time’ for herself,” said Lisa.

Lisa is one of the first people in the Belfast Trust area to use Self Directed Support.  The initiative allows her to discuss with her social worker to agree what support she needs to suit her lifestyle.  Prior to the introduction of Self Directed Support, the five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland assessed an individual’s needs and decided what support could be arranged for them.

Lisa’s social worker, Laura Kernohan from the Physical and Sensory Disability Service adds, “With Self Directed Support, Lisa is supported at home and this means she hasn’t had to miss out on precious bonding time with her baby.”

Self Directed Support is being rolled out across Northern Ireland for people who receive social care support.  It is similar to initiatives that have already been available in England and Scotland for several years. The aim of the initiative is to promote independence by offering more flexibility in how social care services are provided,enabling people to take more control over decisions which affect their lives.

According to Geraldine Fleming, Social Care Commissioning Lead at the Health and Social Care Board, 95% of respondents to a recent consultation agreed that people should have more control over how their assessed care and support needs should be met.  “Self Directed Support is intended to support this by giving people more choice, control, and flexibility, while helping to promote independence,” she adds.

The initiative has been welcomed by several disability advocacy groups.

Philomena McCrory is Director of the Centre for Independent Living, Northern Ireland and is optimistic that Self Directed Support will enable people to come up with creative ways to meet their own needs,Disabled people are the experts in their own lives and are best placed to decide how they want to live and what they need to make it happen.”   

David McDonald, Chairperson of The Omnibus Partnership agrees, “Self Directed Support has enormous potential to transform the lives of many disabled people and their families, for the better. The positive experiences and palpable enthusiasm for its recent roll out promise much for its implementation. Without a doubt, one crucial linchpin has been the inclusive involvement of disabled people, since its start, in all aspects of its design and development. It is critical to its survival and future and ongoing success that this linchpin stays steady and secure and I would ask the Trusts to ensure this, for the sake of all concerned.”

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can find out more about Self Directed Support here http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/sds/