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SDS National Voice 2024 – A Decade of Learning

November 16, 2023
Date: March 28, 2024
Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Open to all

SDS National Voice 2024, A decade of learning. #SDSNV24. SDS Scotland logo. Sponsored by Navigator


SDS National Voice is Scotland’s only national conference dedicated to Self-Directed Support. 

In 2024 our theme is “A decade of learning”, reflecting the ten years that have passed since the law enshrining the right to Self-directed Support came into effect in April 2014. We’ll be reflecting on what we’ve learned across the sector over the past ten years and how we’ve adapted to challenges and opportunities. We’ll also look ahead to the next ten years, and the work taking place to ensure the values and principles of SDS continue to be embedded in the way social care support is delivered in Scotland. 

We’re excited to bring this year’s conference back to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for an in-person event, giving attendees including supported people, unpaid carers, SDSS members, partner organisations, local authority and government colleagues the chance to come together to learn, share ideas and make connections. 

For those who prefer to take part in the conference online, there is the option to view live-streamed plenary sessions and take part in online workshops.  



The conference will be taking place at a pivotal moment for Self-directed Support, with the first year of the national SDS Improvement Plan complete, marking the tenth anniversary of SDS legislation – with the Parliamentary post-legislative scrutiny process ongoing – and in the context of developing plans for the National Care Service. 

The conference will be opened with a keynote address and Q&A from the Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport, Maree Todd MSP. 

We are excited to share that this event will mark the relaunch of the Personal Assistant Network Scotland, showcasing their new offer as a membership organisation that aims to strengthen the PA workforce in Scotland, further empowering those who employ Personal Assistants.  

The Independent Living Fund Scotland, which is due to re-open in the days following the conference, will present on the new fund, the impact it will have on enabling independent living in Scotland, and the future of the ILF. 

And Self-directed Support Scotland will share findings from our ongoing research into Independent SDS Support services in Scotland – what does quality independent support look like, how can services become more accessible, what is needed to enable these services to meet demand? 

Following the morning presentations, a discussion panel featuring experts from across the sector will reveal a range of perspectives on the key issues around Self-directed Support. 


Event timings  

8.45am Registration opens (in person) 

9.15am Online event open (online) 

9.30am Welcome from event hosts Donald Macleod and Becs Barker 

9.45am Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport, Maree Todd MSP  

Keynote address followed by questions 

10.15am Relaunch of the Personal Assistant Network Scotland  

Presentation followed by questions 

10.40am Break 

11.00am Re-opening of Independent Living Fund Scotland 

Presentation followed by questions 

11.25am Research into Independent SDS Support services in Scotland  

Presentation followed by questions 

11.50am Panel discussion 

12.30pm Lunch break 

1.30pm Workshops round one 

2.30pm Break 

2.45pm Workshops round two 

3.45pm Conference round up 

4.00pm Event close 



The afternoon will feature a range of workshops on emerging issues around SDS.

In-person attendees can choose to attend two from a choice of 8 workshops – details below.

Online attendees will be able to take part in online-only workshops – more information about these can be found at the bottom of this page.


A. What does a good Direct Payment look like for employing Personal Assistants?

We know Direct Payments provide the most amount of control and are key in supporting independent living for many disabled people and families.

The Personal Assistant Programme Board and Social Work Scotland, together with employers, local authorities, Personal Assistants and independent support organisations have been working together to understand what a good Direct Payment should include, and how employers and families can be supported in using their Direct Payment to be good employers.

Join Donna Murray (Social Work Scotland) for this workshop to explore how we can ensure Direct Payments work for everyone, no matter where you live in Scotland. The workshop will share learning to date and give you an opportunity to share your views – what does good look like for you?

B. Reflections on 10 years of Support in the Right Direction

In this session, Inspiring Scotland will share their reflections from managing the Support in the Right Direction Fund (SiRD) for almost 10 years. SiRD is a Scottish Government programme which funds independent support organisations that help people to navigate the social care system and plan their support.

The session will explore what Inspiring Scotland have learned about independent support during this time, highlight the benefits of independent support and the conditions that support it to work well. There will also be discussion around the challenges in delivering independent support. The session will be most relevant to people who want to learn more about how independent support helps people to have choice and control over their social care, supporting the implementation of SDS.

C. Accessible information in Self Directed Support for people with sensory impairments

Join Lewis Shaw from the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) for this workshop, looking at work carried out across 2023-24 by the Scottish Sensory Hub on accessible information on Self Directed Support and social care.

The My Support My Choice research (undertaken in partnership with SDSS) showed that many people with lived experience of Deafness, Deafblindness or Visual Impairment have problems accessing information about SDS and obtaining social care support. This project aims to inform improvements to the provision of accessible information and sensory awareness. This workshop will outline how the ALLIANCE conducted this research, and share key findings and recommendations, followed by a Q&A discussion session.

D. Alternative Option 1 supports in South Ayrshire: Cayr Local Microenterprise Project

Cayr Local is a partnership project between Ayrshire Independent Living Network, GrowBiz and Ayrshire BEATS. It helps people who want to set up micro-enterprises to provide SDS Option 1 support, as well as supporting and enabling people to access and receive that support.

Join Sharon Mcleod (AILN) and Hayley Gardiner (GrowBiz) as they share their experience of working on the project, the benefits to the local community in South Ayrshire, the value of increasing the diversity of and access to Option 1 providers, and learnings from the project delivery.

E. Emerging practice in Option 3

Under our legislation, the values and principles of Self-directed Support apply to all 4 options. In the 10 years since implementation, Option 3 has evolved to be seen as ‘traditional services’, rarely offering flexibility or creativity.

In late 2023 In Control Scotland published a research paper: Emerging Practice in Option 3 which sought to explore examples of local authorities that had created opportunities for Option 3 to be offered more in line with the spirit and values of SDS.

This workshop, facilitated by In Control Scotland, will explain some of the findings and offer an opportunity to discuss how this learning could be applied across Scotland.

F. What works in PA wellbeing?

Join Rhiann McLean and Richard Brunner (IMPACT), Victoria Freeland (Scottish Government) and Graeme Grandison (National Wellbeing Hub) for this workshop exploring PA wellbeing.

IMPACT, based at University of Stirling, is working with the Personal Assistant Programme Board to understand how to improve the wellbeing of PAs employed by disabled people. Workshop participants will hear new findings from an international literature review about what works with PA wellbeing, and discuss whether the findings ‘ring true’ in Scotland.

The National Wellbeing Hub provides online resources to support the wellbeing of everyone working in Health and Social Care in Scotland, including Personal Assistants (PAs). Workshop participants will hear all about what the Hub can offer them and discuss what could be added to best support PAs.

G. Navigating Employment Law and HR Issues, as a PA Employer

Employment law can be a notoriously tricky and complex area, for people who employ Personal Assistants and the organisations that support them.

In this workshop, conference sponsors Navigator will discuss key “need to know” areas of employment law and HR best practice when it comes to the unique relationship between PA Employer and PA.

Expect to learn more about the latest changes to employment law, including holiday pay and flexible working, as well as key points in the PA employment journey – from initial contract documentation to circumstances where employment might end. You can also find out about how organisations like Navigator can help organisations that support PA Employers keep informed about employment law issues.

H. Inclusive communication: Learnings on what REALLY matters to me

We all know how to have a good conversation, or do we? Join us on this workshop to hear and share our learnings on how to make our communication inclusive. More importantly though, how do we receive communication back in an inclusive manner.

Power dynamics, lack of time, pre-assumptions and life all have an impact. Hear what it’s like on both sides of the conversation and what can make things accessible and inclusive for all.

An interactive workshop of peer learning facilitated by Lyn and Maggie from Disability Equality Scotland.


Online event

The online event will take place via Microsoft Teams. Online attendees will be able to watch a live stream of all morning presentations, and ask questions using the chat fuction.

In the afternoon, online attendees will take part in the following workshop sessions:

Workshop 1: Who is in the driving seat? Eligibility, appropriateness and rebalancing the power for people who use substances

This workshop, led by Figure 8 research consultancy, will explore access to Self-directed Support for individuals who use substances.We recognise that often, substance use is a symptom of other support needs rather than the main driver for support. We want to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding SDS for people who use substances and to identify strategies for enhancing access, appropriateness, and empowerment within this vital support framework.

In this workshop we’ll discuss issues such professional stigma, barriers to access and power dynamics. We’ll also discover how Self-directed Support aligns with current Scottish drug policy in terms of delivering person-centred support, collaboration, and a focus on recovery-oriented approaches. By exploring these critical aspects, we aim to lay a foundation for discussions on SDS and its implications for individuals navigating the complexities of substance use and recovery.

Workshop 2: Artificial Intelligence and Independent Living – a presentation from the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL)

We are pleased to welcome colleagues from ENIL who have prepared this special presentation especially for those attending the SDS National Voice conference online.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a key tool for people with disabilities, offering enhanced independence through technologies like image recognition apps, dictation software, and smart home devices. These innovations improve access to education, employment, and social interaction, enabling people to perform tasks that might have previously required human assistance. However, the integration of AI also introduces significant risks, including discrimination and exclusion, due to societal biases embedded in AI algorithms and a lack of adequate representation in technology development. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to develop ethical, inclusive AI systems that consider the diverse needs of people with disabilities.

This workshop will look at the challenges and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for persons with disabilities. Maitreya Shah, who is currently conducting a study for ENIL on the experiences of people with disabilities with AI, will present the results of the study and his research on AI and disability. Björn Lubetzki, from Bridge the Gap, will speak about their work to make the tech world more inclusive by addressing challenges like biased AI training data and poorly designed user interfaces, ensuring technology is accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities.



A range of ticket options are available, with free places for supported people and unpaid carers, and discounted tickets for SDSS members. 

Please choose either an in-person or online ticket depending on how you’d like to attend the conference. 

If you are unsure which ticket type is best for you, please contact us at 



The Edinburgh International Conference Centre is conveniently located in central Edinburgh, close to transport links, with Haymarket train station and tram stop 10 minutes’ walk away, and with ample parking nearby. 

Further details of how to reach the venue and parking can be found on the EICC website:  



We aim to make the event accessible for all those who wish to attend. You can find information about accessibility at the EICC on their website: 

The PAMIS Pamiloo mobile Changing Places toilet will also be available on site. 

Please let us know when you book your ticket if you have any accessibility needs. 

BSL interpretation – if you require BSL please let us know by 1 March 2024 to ensure we can book interpreters.

Auto-generated captions will also be available for those attending online. 

If you need support to register please contact us at or 0131 475 2623. 


Get in touch 

If you have any questions about the conference please get in touch: