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Self-directed support (SDS)


Self-directed support – support, care, trust, protect. Image shows elderly adults chatting on a bench, a person receiving occupational therapy/rehabilitation with an OT, person in wheelchair, home carer with elderly client, elderly person and young child

Eligibility Criteria are used by local authorities to deploy resources in a transparent way that ensures that those resources are targeted to adults in greatest need. There is no national eligibility framework in place for children's services, which therefore assess need and provide support in a different way, with threshold criteria set by individual authorities.

There are two stages to the assessment process:

• for us to assess your eligible needs
• taking your needs into account, decide which of your needs will be met by providing support

The current guidance on national standard eligibility criteria applying to adults places risks in four bands: critical, substantial, medium and low.

Assessments let us provide services to those in greatest need and provide interventions to help prevent those with less urgent needs from getting any worse.

Intensity of risk

Critical - indicates that there are major risks to an individual’s independent living or health and wellbeing likely to need immediate or imminent provision of social care services (high priority).
Substantial - indicates that there are significant risks to an individual’s independence or health and wellbeing likely to need immediate or imminent provision of social care services (high priority).
Moderate risk - indicates that there are some risks to an individual’s independence or health and wellbeing. These may need some support with arrangements put in place for a review.
Low risk - indicates low risks to an individual’s independence or health and wellbeing. There may be alternative support and advice that can be given for the foreseeable future.

The council's policy is to support substantial and critical needs. Low and moderate needs can best be met through community resources.


Critical/immediate – required now or within approximately 1-2 days
Substantial/imminent – required within 1-3 months
Moderate within the foreseeable future – not within 6 months
Low longer term – not required within next 12 months or subsequently

The authority must take reasonable steps to comply with the 2013 Act. There are however, circumstances where the authority has the discretion to refuse a direct payment, for example where in the authority's considered judgement it is impossible for the direct payment option to meet the needs of the supported person and, at the same time, be assured that the person's safety is not being jeopardised by the direct payment. The 2014 Regulations specify that an authority is not required to offer the option of a direct payment where it is likely that the making of a direct payment will put the safety of the supported person at risk. Appropriate examples where the authority can use this duty of care discretion are:

  • where a person's safety will be put at risk by having a direct payment because it is clear that the money will not be used to purchase the needed support
  • where the assessment is conducted at an acute point of crisis to the extent that the person's safety would be further jeopardised by the provision of a direct payment
  • where the adult is defined as an adult at risk under the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 and there is a protection order in place and there are concerns about the person's safety