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Minutes of the Client User Group Meeting 22 September 2004

1. Matters Arising

1.1. Leaflets

As requested by members of the User Group (who wanted some information about the ILF they could hand out at events or meetings) and in preparation for some ILF events, some colour leaflets had been produced. These were shown at the meeting and feedback was positive. The group members took some of the leaflets away with them.

1.2. Report From Trustees Meeting

The Chair reminded the Client Liaison Manager to post out copies of her report from the Trustees Meeting to the other User Group members who were not at the User Group meeting.

1.3. Newsletter

The next Newsletter (October 2004) will contain a Frequently Asked Questions section as well as a page on the work of the Client User Group which the Chair has written. The Newsletter will also contain a synopsis of the Annual Report which is also due in October. The Information and Service Director explained that this year’s report contained more quotes from clients and photographs to present a positive image of disabled people.

1.4. A Guide To Preferred Language

The Information and Service Director informed the group that a guide has been produced internally for staff on the preferred language to be used in communication with customers, partly based on the ideas and experiences of the Client User Group. This guide will form part of future induction sessions for new employees at the ILF. In addition the Information and Service Director has produced a glossary of Social Services terminology to explain various terms and acronyms, again to help staff deal with casework and increase understanding of the work of Local Authorities. These guides are accessible to all ILF staff through the Intranet.

2. Payment Assurance

The Information and Service Director explained that the Payment Assurance Manager is working on a project looking into payment assurance. The ILF deals with public monies and has to satisfy itself that people are receiving the correct amount of money, that it is being properly used (and not misappropriated), and that no fraud is being committed.

The group commented that there were discrepancies between Local Authorities as some insist on separate accounts to deal with Direct Payments and ILF payments or have different audit procedures. They agreed that is of the utmost importance that payments are monitored effectively but that the ILF should take a commonsense approach to how accounts are managed (for example, remembering that people may have funding left over when audited because they need this to pay Tax and NI contributions).

2.1. How Did Group Members Familiarise Themselves With ILF Rules and Regulations?

One of the aspects of the Payment Assurance project is to look at how the ILF can ensure people understand their responsibilities when receiving funding from us. The group members had differing experiences of what is was like when they first began receiving Direct Payments and ILF and had to manage a care package.

One group member was given support by her Social Worker and from a local advocacy service called Mosaic and was able to use the care plan drawn up by the Social Worker to build her care package and begin employing personal assistants. The advice from the advocacy service was usually very good. But the Chair said her own experience was different. She didn’t know who was visiting (at the initial visit stage), wasn’t made aware of things that the funding could and couldn’t be used for, did not know about bank accounts and how to pay staff. She had to pick up things as she went along. Both group members felt they had learnt a lot more since being involved with the User Group.

It was agreed that the early stages of receiving funding and becoming an employer are often very daunting for people. The group felt that it is possible that placing “extra” responsibilities on people who receive funding may deter people from applying or accepting their offer.

The group felt that the ILF should provide more support and “after-care”, perhaps by building links with local advocacy services.

3. Website Development / Chapter 8

Two representatives from Chapter 8 (the company that are developing the ILF website) joined the meeting to discuss plans for the new site and to listen to group members’ views and ideas.

Using the ILF’s original brief as a starting point, Chapter 8 is keen to find out what would serve users best. They want to make the site as accessible as possible to a wide variety of users.

The group started by saying what they did / didn’t like about the current website. The group felt that though the site contains good information,and has improved greatly over the years since its inception, there are a lot of pages with too much text to wade through, there should be more links at the side to go straight from one page to another, more diagrams and images to help break up the text, more consideration about colour and text size, and sometimes you have to go through too many screens to get to the information you want.

Chapter 8 discussed various ways that they can address these issues. They also suggested that the site could include an accessibility section so people can find out how to make the best use of the site.

A second phase in the development will come later when the ILF will start looking at more interactive features on the website (for example, possible online applications, or direct emails to Customer Services, discussion forums, etc.).

For now the plan is to get volunteers (ILF users and Social Workers) to log on to a test version of the site. They will be given “scenarios” to work through and be invited to give feedback on how they found using the site.

Action Point: Jon to recruit volunteers for testing the site through the User Newsletter and Contact Officer Newsletter.

4. Any other business

There was no other business, but we agreed that the next meeting should concentrate on how the Client User Group could be developed and how it fits in to future consultation carried out by the ILF. The meeting will be held on 24 November 2004.
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