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Minutes of the Client User Group Meeting 26 May 2004

1. Welcome by the Chair

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and also introduced the new group members.

2. Minutes from the last meeting

2.1 Increases

Some points were raised from the last minutes. It was agreed that an article for the next User Newsletter would explain how you can contact the ILF for an increase at any time (as opposed to waiting for a review).

It was also pointed out that an issue from the last meeting should be clarified as it was not represented properly in the minutes: namely, that automatic annual increases for all users of the Fund would benefit users as it would mean much less paperwork. It was mentioned that awards should be increased annually in line with inflation but still leave the option for users to contact the Fund for extra support if required.

2.2 ILF website

The previous minutes had mentioned that the ILF are reviewing their website. It has now been confirmed that a company called Chapter Eight will be looking at the website. The group asked if their views on the website will be taken into account, and if so, could Chapter Eight representatives attend a User Group meeting to discuss plans for development. The Information and Service Director explained that we are currently putting together a project plan. Action Point: Trevor to see if Chapter Eight can attend a User Group meeting.

2.3 New Trustee

An item in the last minutes was clarified. Margaret Cooper is the new Chair of the Trustees. Nick Danagher from NCIL and Surrey CIL has joined as a new trustee, but has not taken up post yet.

2.4 Hidden costs

The group asked what would happen as a result of the discussion about the “hidden” costs of employing personal assistance. It was explained that policy review was a slow process as at present the Policy Team have upwards of 200 policies under review. However, details of the discussion have been passed on to the team. It was explained that some of these issues will tie in with other policies so they will probably be addressed separately.

The group asked if the ILF should issue guidelines to PA users about what can be covered by ILF. Action Point: look into the possibility of producing guidelines (Customer Services?)

2.5 Annual Report

The Information and Service Director confirmed that he would take receipt of User Group items for the Annual Report up to 2 June 2004.

2.6 Direct Payments Support Groups

The Information and Service Director explained that it is a long-term aim of the ILF to work alongside Direct Payment Support Groups.

3. Glasgow Roadshow

The Client Liaison Manager and the Information and Service Director talked about the ILF Roadshow in Glasgow that had taken place on 25 May 2004.

It was reported that the event was a success. Around 70 people (a mixture of users, Social Workers, advocates, etc.) had turned up to meet ILF staff, have their questions answered, and talk to the other organisations present (Inland Revenue, Glasgow CIL, Scottish Low Pay, GCVS and SPAEN). The next stage was to evaluate the day, look at the format of the event, and decide whether to run similar events elsewhere. The initial user feedback from those who attended suggested that the day had been useful and positive and that we would definitely be organising something else.

The group asked if we had considered attending disability events organised by others. The Information and Service Director responded by stating that these other events hadn’t proved fruitful in the past, but we would not rule out attending other events and would judge their suitability on their own merits. The Client Liaison Manager informed the group that we had been invited to attend a Jobs Fair in London by BEMA>D (an organisation representing disabled people from black and ethnic minority communities) and that we were interested in this opportunity as we had been assured the event would be well-attended.

Action: Provide DWP stall with ILF-related literature for Naidex event in Donington. Also equip User Group members with literature they can distribute.

4. Preparation for Trustees Meeting (9 June 2004)

The Chair of the User Group had been asked to attend the Trustees Meeting in London on 9 June 2004. The purpose of this was to review the work of the User Group so far since its inception.

The Chair ran through what she planned to talk about (which amounted to a list of notable achievements of the group), namely: the advisory capacity of the group in changing literature and giving feedback on policy; changes in the presentation of information leaflets etc. (changes in font size, format); the launch of the User Guide; the group’s role in pushing forward use of technology (i.e. ILF use of email, website); the provision for disability equality training for all staff (work in progress, although new starters have a session as part of their induction); consultation on the Annual Report (including giving more emphasis on users); taking part in a research project by the Inland Revenue, and various other discussions (for example, last meeting’s debate on “hidden” costs).

The Chair then asked what the other group members thought.

Comments were made that the group should consider more about their experiences as Direct Payment users as well as ILF users. The  Client User Group members use a wide variety of services and can bring to the attention of the Trustees their experiences of the whole system (for example, the delays, paperwork, frustration).

The group felt their work was valuable as it demonstrated the human context of funding.

The group felt that their work helped give recognition to the role of disabled people as employers. They also felt that the suggestions and improvements they have made are important as they are led by the experience of disabled people.

(The group did ask whether there could be an update as to what happened as a result of the Inland Revenue research they were involved with. It was also suggested that the ILF should contact the Inland Revenue and prompt them to be more proactive in encouraging the “simplified (PAYE) system” for disabled customers.)

In terms of how the Client User Group operates it was agreed that two-monthly meetings worked best. The format of the group also works well, but there is always a danger of the group becoming stale and new members should be encouraged. The group asked if it was time to send out invitations to join again. It was suggested that ILFAs could encourage contact with the User Group when visiting new clients and make them aware of the group’s work.

We also discussed ideas for future consultation such as possible “e-conferencing” or video links for those who would find attending meetings in person difficult. Also the website could be made more interactive.

The Client Liaison Manager pointed out that part of his remit is to look at how the group will develop and how future consultation may be undertaken. Possible website discussion forums are one option, as are involving people with the User Group by post or email. The ILF is also interested in establishing (semi-autonomous?) user groups in other parts of the country that would still follow the agenda set by the ILF and be facilitated by the ILF but could run more-or-less independently (with the possible of a General Meeting once a year).

It was mentioned that the group might focus on “experience” to a greater extent, but other group members countered this on the grounds that it might become a “self-help” group – although all members recognised the value of the group as a way for them to share knowledge and experience in addition to the remit originally set by the ILF.

The group felt that preparation for meetings would be aided if the minutes were sent out about half way through the period between meetings. The group also felt that some simple explanatory notes after each point on the agenda for the forthcoming meeting would help them prepare and would lead to better discussions.

Action Point: Client Liaison Manager to ensure that agendas contain explanatory notes after each agenda point.

5. Discussion on Timesheets

The Information and Service Director explained the reason for the discussion. To aid people with managing their ILF award and account for how the monies have been spent on care it is seen as good practice to keep records. The ILF has considered whether there ought to be a standard timesheet issued to users like those already used by Local Authorities for Direct Payment users.

The group had provided samples of the systems they use. They discussed the merits and disadvantages of each, but there were differing views as to which was the most user-friendly method. It was agreed that whatever system the ILF might decide to introduce would have to be flexible. It was also noted that it is best to avoid too many boxes on forms as this causes problems for visually impaired users.

We agreed that anything the ILF might seek to introduce could only really be a guide and that people should still have the freedom to manage their care arrangements in the most suitable way for them.

Action Point: Client Liaison Manager (?) to design some possible models for an ILF standard timesheet.

6. Newsletter/Website FAQs

A client has suggested that the next edition of the newsletter should contain a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section. The User Group were invited by the Client Liaison Manager to think about what questions they might have had when they first became clients of the ILF (or questions they still have now) that would be useful to have answered in the newsletter. Some of these may also be added to the FAQ section on the ILF website.

Action Point: Group to think about FAQs in time for discussion at the next meeting.

7. Next Meeting

The date for the next meeting was set as 28 July 2004.

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