Mr R Pratt

Location: Warwickshire

Gill and I are 74 years old and retired. Significantly, Gill was a health visitor for 25 years with special responsibility for disabled children. Gill was diagnosed with Muscular Degeneration about ten years ago and is unable to drive. She is only able to read descriptions with a 6x magnifier. Writing is similarly affected. 

We did not want direct payments, but experienced a litany of problems with three providers over fifteen years. Very reluctantly we accepted the suggestion made by a respected care with our last provider to move to direct payments. 

Initially, direct payments was extremely onerous. It was he worst job I have ever had, necessitating a considerable amount of evening and weekend 'working'! All of this was unpaid of course. However, under direct payments we have been able to recruit our own carers who are significantly more effective than many of the staff who worked for providers. In October 2016 we were taken to an employment tribunal by a carer who claimed £30,000 for unfair dismissal. Although the case was dismissed, we endured an unbelievably stressful 4 1/2 months. My report, the flaws in Direct Payments for 24/7 services in Warwickshire is freely available.

The move to a third-party agreement with Solo has completely transformed the operation of our daughter's care package. We have an excellent manager, our care staff now undergo training and Solo can provide professional support over a range of issues. 

Given the problems we faced, principally with employment tribunal and a 3-month staff absence for Mental Health Issues, I was very close to cancelling direct payments and leaving the local authority to a find provides. Solo have made it possible to continue with direct payments and retain our now excellent care team. I see my report and 'Right to choose care hit by Council cuts', Frances Ryan, 'The Guardian, p38, 7th December 2016. 

Every aspect of the operation of our daughter's care package is significantly better with Solo's professional support. In my view, very few family carers have the necessary range of skills to manage direct payments on their own. The support provided by agencies funded by the local authority, however good, is not legally binding. Additionally, advice and support is available as a free add on to home employment insurance. In our case, this advice was only available by telephone and email from a call centre in Manchester for he majority of family carers this inadequate.

- Been with Solo Support Services since December 2017