SDSS AGM 2023: round up

SDS Scotland AGM 2023 Wednesday 15 November, SDSS logo and three coloured speech bubbles

Our Annual General Meeting this year saw more than 80 people from our member organisations and across the sector get together to hear the latest updates on Self Directed Support, Scottish social care policy, and share learning in a series of workshops. 

SDS Scotland CEO Donald Macleod shared highlights from our work over the past year, including the establishment and ongoing development of the National SDS Collaboration, the ongoing work of the Personal Assistant Programme Board – including a PA recruitment campaign, PA workforce survey and the launch of the PA Handbook – and research to understand the barriers autistic people face in accessing SDS. 

You can read more about our work over the year 2022-23 in our Annual Report.

Rachael McGruer, Deputy Director of Scottish Government’s Adult Social Care Local Improvement and Transformation Division, kicked off the presentations with an update on the National Care Service (NCS). She shared the developments that had taken place so far, including a series of public consultation events throughout the summer, and the next steps for the legislation. She also reflected on the principles of SDS that will be carried forward to the National Care Service: participation and dignity, involvement, informed choice, and collaboration. 

SDSS’ Emmanuelle Le Coz and Johanne McBean gave an update on their work to develop a national training framework for Personal Assistants and their employers. They shared findings of a national survey carried out in September which has informed the shape of the proposals for the framework. You can read more about the survey and the next steps for the project here:  

Finally, Anne-Marie Monaghan presented on the development of a National Brokerage Framework for Scotland. Having been co-produced by brokerage, independent support and Disabled People’s Organisations, the Framework is nearing completion and will set out the principles of the Community Brokerage approach in Scotland. 

In the afternoon, delegates were invited to join one of five workshops exploring current developments in Self-directed Support. You can read more about what was covered in each workshop below.


Improving Self-directed Support in our local authority area 

Members of the newly-developed West Lothian SDS Forum reflected on their work so far to establish a network for those keen to improve SDS in their local area. They shared their main learning, including: 

  • the need to have the support and engagement of the Local Authority 
  • the benefits of having a host organisation to “incubate” the forum – in their case, Carers of West Lothian – so they can develop and apply for funding  
  • a better understanding of the gaps in support for people to access SDS in West Lothian.

Researching the quality of Independent Support for SDS in Scotland 

SDSS’ Mark Han-Johnston facilitated a workshop looking at a forthcoming project to research the quality of independent SDS support in Scotland. The session heard views that it’s important for the research to understand: 

  • how people find out about independent SDS support 
  • the gaps in independent support in different parts of Scotland, and the impact this has on people’s experiences of accessing SDS 
  • the differences between people’s experience of independent support, and their experience of SDS more widely. 


Developing an online SDS Handbook 

SDSS’ Kayleigh Hirst led a session to introduce SDSS’ work to develop an online SDS Handbook, based on the successful model of the PA Employer/ Personal Assistant Handbook. Those who took part in the workshop were supportive of the project, identifying the real need for the resource, and putting forward suggestions including: 

  • there will need to be a balance between including enough information for those that are looking for it, and still being easy to understand for people new to SDS 
  • real examples of how SDS works are really important 
  • the Handbook will have a role to play in helping people understand their rights.  


PA Employer and PA training framework 

Emmanuelle Le Coz and Johanne McBean took a deeper dive into their work to develop a National Training Framework for Personal Assistants and Employers, following on from their morning presentation. Some of the main points discussed in the workshop included: 

  • There is huge pressure on independent support organisations and Centres for Inclusive Living to provide support for employers who have had no information on what being an employer entails 
  • Any toolkit developed for employers will need to consider usability, especially for people with less capacity or who are in crisis 
  • It’s important to evaluation any existing training to help make sure Employers do not spend time and money on inappropriate or inadequate training. 


A Time to be Bold – Scotland-wide learning from the GDA Future Visions projects 

Lastly, Glasgow Disability Alliance’s Tressa Burke and Marianne Scobie led a session exploring the learning from GDA’s Future Visions project, which was designed to help address the relatively low uptake of SDS among disabled people. The learning, based on a report from Dr Richard Brunner at Glasgow University, argued that to improve social care in Scotland, the Scottish Government needs to be bold, and suggests that there needs to be resourced and funded Disabled People’s Organisations in every local authority in Scotland. 

You can read more about the report and its recommendations on the GDA website:  


The AGM ended with a video performance from Glasgow Disability Alliance’s Purple Poncho Players of the poem ‘A Time to be Bold’, written by creative director Johnny McKnight: 

‘A Time to be Bold’  


This is a time to be bold, that’s what was said,   

A time to progress, reassess and rethink unafraid.   

A time to be bold and redesign our system of care,  

A time to shift the paradigm to create a model that’s fair.   


We need to rethink that social care is a burden to society:   

It’s an investment in our citizens, helping to maintain propriety.  

We should stop talking of competition and transactions,  

and reimagine it as a model of collaboration and positive actions.   


Our foundations are already strong, but now we need to start building;  

Increase self directed support and a fund for Independent Living.  

Nurture our amazing social care staff, they should feel valued and engaged.  

We need networks and respite for the carers that are unwaged.   


We should re-legislate care – bold, brave, empathetic and vocal;  

Build partnerships to decrease the red tape nationally and local.  

We need accountability, with rights based approached embedded,   

And support to get our voices heard, participate and be represented.   


We need a system of redress when rights have not been upheld,  

And recourse to complain when mistakes and injustice are felt.  

We must now start to measure the outcomes which actually count,  

Alongside those people the services are supposed to be about!   


This is a time to be bold, so here are the questions we ask:  

How do we drag our social care system out of the past?    

How do we make it a springboard for choice and control,   

That enables disabled people to take up our rightful roles? 


SDSS would like to thank all our members, speakers and workshop facilitators for making this year’s AGM such a useful learning experience for everyone who attended.  

For more information about any of the work discussed above, please contact us at 

Self Directed Support Scotland

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