This is a four-country (United Kingdom) study of a relatively new and radical form of welfare provision, direct payments, conducted by leading centres for disability research in England and Scotland. The research explores national and local variations in the implementation of direct payments, and the power relations that underpin these differences.
Past research has identified considerable variation in the take-up of direct payments
within and between different parts of the UK. However, such studies have tended to
explain this variation only at the level of individual purchasing authorities or within
single countries/regions. We conclude that it is impossible to understand the dynamics
of uneven implementation without considering the UK as a whole. The picture is
complex but three themes are particularly important.
1. The politics of devolution - Whilst ministers throughout the UK have broadly endorsed direct payments, expressions of support have been much stronger in England than elsewhere (e.g. that direct payments should be the default option in social care purchasing).
2. Local cultures of welfare - Although devolution has created different opportunity structures for the implementation of direct payments policies in different regions of the UK, local economies of welfare and the micro-politics of purchasing authorities remain critical factors.
3. The influence of the disability movement - The social claims of disabled people, for access to independent living outcomes and for direct payments as a route to this end, were highly significant in policy development both locally and nationally.