Self-directed support options

Options for arranging support: Self-directed support options

Lady looking at SDS Options

What is self-directed support (or SDS)? Self-directed support is the phrase used to describe the choice between different ways to organise care services and other support. There are 4 ways someone can get support when all or part of it is paid for by the Council.

  • Option 1: A Direct Payment is when you get the money and you organise the support yourself.
  • Option 2: An Individual Service Fund is when you can spread and move around resources between different services in the same way as a direct payment, but the Council or another organisation arranges it all and handles the financial side.  Sometimes this is called a Personal Budget.
  • Option 3: The Council can organise the care for you. They have arrangements with a small number of care providers to deliver support to anyone in the area who needs it.
  • Option 4: A Combination of a direct payment, an individual budget and the Council organising the care.



  • You should still have a say in the details of what care you get whatever option you chose for organising it.
  • You should also have care that is based on your personal circumstances and what you want no matter who pays for it.
Each way of organising support has its advantages and its limitations. These are the experiences of other people on this.


  • A direct payment gives the person the most control. You are clearly the one in change. If the care is not good enough or if people don’t listen, you can move and get the service from another care providers or a Personal Assistant.
  • It gives the most flexibility on the details – where and when you get the service and how things are done.
  • When your circumstances change you can change the support to suit you.
  • In most places there are organisations that can help you with the responsibility and practical arrangements, such as managing the money and if you employ staff.
  • It is easy to pay for extra services yourself if this is helpful for you.


  • If something goes wrong or the care is not available – for example if you employ a Personal Assistant and they become sick or go on holiday – you have to find the alternative. So it is a good idea to build in a fall back when you make your plans. Jaynie’s story is an example of how someone dealt with that aspect. 
  • In some areas it can be hard to find people to take on the role of Personal Assistants, for example in some rural areas.
  • If you use the direct payment to employ a Personal Assistant, you take on all the responsibilities of being an employer.


  • An individual budget gives you a lot of flexibility within a range of services.
  • The Council looks after the money side and other practical aspects, so there is less hassle for you.
  • You can also choose to have another organisation, such as someone who provides you support or an independent SDS advice service, to organise things for you.


  • You have to work through the Council or the other organisation when you want to move to more/less of a service within your package. This can take time if their staff are under pressure or if their systems are slow.
  • There may be limits on what you can include within your package of support.

Also useful:

There is a guide to Individual Service Funds based on people’s experiences. It is reflects the experience in England but is still very useful for people living in Scotland. Click to link to site


  • Services can usually get organised quickly, so it is good for crisis or unexpected situations.
  • It often works well when there is a close match between what you want and the type of services with which the Council has a contract.


  • You may not be able to get the flexibility you need.
  • You usually have little or no choice on which organisation provides the service to you.
  • If you have problems with the quality of care or the practical arrangements, you are depending on someone in the Council to sort it out for you.
  • When a service is part of a Council contract usually you are not able to pay for extra services if you want to pay for these yourself. But the  service provider might agree to having a separate arrangement with you.


  • You can get the best of several arrangements – such as a service or individual budget that works for most of your needs, plus a small direct payment to get something arranged just for you.
  • It is a good way to try out a direct payment or individual budget to see if it works for you and get more confident with that arrangement.


  • There is a risk of having the hassle of dealing with several systems, and it might feel complicated.
  • Although you should be able to make changes easily to some parts of the package, it might be more complicated to make big changes when the Council has several arrangements in place for you.


Where to get more information

There is more information on how all these arrangements work at the Scottish Government’s website on Self-directed support:  Click to link to site

You may also find it useful to get advice from MECOPP’s Rights, Responsibilities and Respect project. This project provides legal support to people affected by dementia to help them access their rights to Self-directed Support. Click here for more information.



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