Direct payments and personal budgets are offered by your local authority to give you more flexibility over how your care and support is arranged and provided. They are given to both people with care and support needs, and also to carers.
A personal budget or direct payment will be created after an assessment by social services. If the council decides that you need any kind of support, you will receive a personal budget and can choose a direct payment instead of letting them arrange services for you.
This gives you the opportunity to use your Direct Payments in a number of ways including:
- Personal care and support
- Domestic help around the home
- Outings and social activities
- Short-term residential care
- Keeping up your hobbies
- Attending medical appointments
If you aren’t able to, or don’t want to manage your own finances, it’s possible for another person to manage the direct payments on your behalf.
Direct payments are voluntary, and you need to request or agree to have one. You can’t be forced to have direct payments. If you decide to have direct payments, you can change your mind about this at any time. If you no longer want direct payments, contact your local social services and ask them to arrange services instead
Who can have direct payments?
In most cases, if you or the person you’re looking after are assessed and social services decide you need support services, they must offer you the option of receiving direct payments to arrange care and support yourself, instead of having it arranged for you. If you want a direct payment, but do not wish to manage it yourself, a “nominated person” can receive the direct payment and manage it on your behalf. If a person lacks capacity to request a direct payment, an “authorised person” can request a direct payment and manage it on their behalf.
There are very limited situations when social services don’t have a duty to offer direct payments. This applies to:
- certain people who are subject to mental health laws; in this case, social services can decide whether or not to offer direct payments
- offenders who are required to undergo treatment for drug or alcohol dependence
If someone is assessed as being eligible for support and it’s not possible for them to get direct payments or they do not want one, social services must provide care and support directly, or through an individual service fund.
Managing direct payments
The council should set out your obligations and responsibilities in a direct payment agreement that you may be asked to sign. This could include:
- keeping records and accounting for how the money is spent to social services
- taking on the legal role of an employer if you’re using the payment to pay for a care worker; talk to the council about local organisations who can help manage the administration and other responsibilities of being an employer
Direct payments can only be spent on things that will meet the assessed needs of the person. If you spend a direct payment on something that doesn’t meet your needs, social services can recover the money from you or terminate the direct payment agreement.
Everyone who gets support from social services should have their care and support plan reviewed at least once a year. If someone’s needs have changed, they should contact social services to request a review of their care plan. If needs have changed in a way that affects the details within the current plan, the council may conduct another assessment of needs, or a financial assessment.
Social services can charge for care and support. This means that you may need to make a financial contribution towards your personal budget amount. Your local social services must tell you if you’ll need to contribute, and how much, and this will be detailed in your personal budget. Their charges must be in accordance with the law. Usually, the council will subtract any charge you need to pay from the personal budget amount, rather than asking you to pay.
You should be able to get help managing direct payments if you need it. Contact your local authority’s social services department to find out what assistance they provide. Social services may give help directly or through a local direct payments support service.
Local voluntary organisations may also be able to provide tailored support, and Disability Rights UK has specialist expertise in direct payments.