Online learning for all involved in care

The OUiS has developed a free online course Foundations for self directed support in Scotland. Picture: Getty
The OUiS has developed a free online course Foundations for self directed support in Scotland. Picture: Getty
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The course is relevant for many people, says Sue Dumbleton

Over 200,000 people in Scotland receive a ‘‘social care’’ service – including care at home, community alarms and telecare. People who receive social care services can be children or adults and they might have a physical or learning disability, a mental health problem, dementia or require palliative care. In addition to the many people who receive social care services, there is a huge formal and informal workforce of carers, care workers and other practitioners. This means that everyone in Scotland will have contact with social care services at some time in their lives, either for themselves, for a family member, for a friend, a neighbour or as a worker.

The ways in which social care has been organised and delivered have been subject to changes over many years. For example there have been steady shifts from institutional care to care in ‘the community’ and the provision of support to enable people to stay in their own homes rather than be admitted to hospital. The most recent development saw a new law come into force in Scotland in April 2014. The Social Care (Self Directed Support) Scotland Act 2013 gives a range of options for how social care is delivered, enabling us to decide how much responsibility and control we want over our own support arrangements. The introduction of self-directed support is part of wider changes in the relationship between individuals and the state. The concept of citizenship – both in terms of rights and of responsibilities of citizens within communities – has become increasingly influential and applies equally to children and to adults. The Curriculum for Excellence, for example, includes education for citizenship to ensure that the concept is developed in the youngest members of society. In health and social care it can be seen like this: ‘‘Citizen leadership is an activity ... it is what happens when individuals have some control over their own services. It is also what happens when citizens take action for the benefit of other citizens’’ (Changing Lives User and Carer Forum, 2008).

A key idea of citizenship is that we are active participants in all aspects of our lives and it is this concept of active engagement which the legislation on self-directed support seeks to foster. However, this is easy to say but much harder to put into practice. Making this aspect of active citizenship a reality requires a big shift in the way we shape and influence the organisation of support, the way it is provided and where responsibility for it lies.

In order to support this huge change The Open University in Scotland (OUiS) has developed a free online course Foundations for self directed support. Funded by the Scottish Government OUiS has written a lively and interactive course which examines the history, meanings, implementation and impact of The Social Care (Self Directed Support) Scotland Act 2013. Written for a wide audience, the course has attracted learners from across Scotland, including people who receive or direct their own support, family carers, practitioners working in local authorities, health services or the voluntary sector and policy makers.

The course is divided into six study sections looking at topics such as risk, implications for the workforce, outcomes and what the future might hold. Learners can either undertake the whole course (about 60 hours of learning) or dip into individual sections according to their interests. There is no time limit for completing the course – it’s completely flexible and can be started and studied at any time. There is no formal assessment although there are quizzes at the end of each section so that learners can check their own progress.

The Open University has found that learners often gain more from this course by studying it in a group. To support group learning, a pack of suggested activities and supplementary learning to support each of the six sections is being developed. This pack will be freely available in the autumn.

• Sue Dumbleton is a staff tutor for the Open University in Scotland

To enrol on or have a browse through the course go to


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