What is SDS?

Self-directed Support, or SDS, is a new system of delivering social care services. It was introduced in Scotland by the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. We are presently in the transition stage, moving from the old system into the new one, i.e. SDS. This means that some people still access social care services using the old system, but they also can choose to access support through SDS. 

 SDS offers people much more say about what support the want to receive and how. To access SDS you need to contact your local social work department and request an assessment. Social Work has a statutory duty to assess your needs within a ‘reasonable time’, which in practical terms means that you should not wait for an assessment for longer than 6 months.

During the assessment the social worker will discuss with you your needs and agree  a care plan with you. You will be offered to choose from the 4 SDS options:



 Choosing direct payments means that you will receive a budget and you will be responsible for arranging your support yourself. The amount of money you will receive will depend on the level of support you require and your financial circumstances. The services you will purchase will need to fall within the agreed support plan, however, you can request services such as cleaning, support doing shopping, gym membership or anything else that is important for you to maintain your independence and wellbeing. The social worker cannot refuse to include in the support plan a service you wish to receive without providing a reasonable justification. 



OPTION 1: Direct payments

In order to manage your direct payments, you will need to open a separate bank account where the money will be paid in and you will also need to account for any expenditure paid for from the allocated budget. Alternatively, you can hire an accountant, who will do this work for you. Under this option you can also employ your personal assistant, including a relative, and the social worker would explain to you your responsibilities as an employer if you chose to do this. 



OPTION 2: Directing available support (or individual service fund)

 If you chose option 2, it means that the budget allocated to you following the assessment will be managed on your behalf by an organisation you choose. You still maintain the choice and flexibility provided by Option 1, however, you won’t need to have a separate bank account or do accounts, as this will be done by the service you choose. They will pay for the services included in your care plan. Some organisations may charge you for managing your budget but they will need to agree this with you in advance. The only difference between option 1 and 2 is that under option 2 you won’t be able to employ a personal assistance – this can only be done under option 1.

OPTION 3: Support arranged by the NHS/ local authority

In practice this means the support will be arranged in the way it used to under the old system. However, in the new system you will still have a say about your needs and preferences. They will be taken in the account and included in your care plan. The support provided should be as flexible as possible ensuring that you maintain the choice and control of the services you receive. 


OPTION 4: Mix & Match

Under this option you can choose to have different services provided under any of the 3 options discussed above. Option 4 provides the most flexibility and control over the support you need. 

Download our SDS flashcards for a simple explanation of how the SDS process works. 

Detailed information about SDS can be accessed on the Scottish Government website by clicking this link: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/04/5438/8

The Statutory Guidelines about SDS published by the Scottish Government can be accessed here: