A personal budget is a sum of money allocated to you as a result of an assessment of your needs. The amount of money you are awarded is based on your 'eligible needs’, which the local council's policy says it has a duty to support.

There is a choice:

  • You can ask the local authority to arrange services to the value of the personal budget
  • Or you can have the personal budget in the form of a direct payment and make your own care arrangements. Direct payments can be spent on services, equipment or activities.

The resource allocation system (RAS) is the most common way to calculate personal budgets. This is a supported self-assessment questionnaire, which can help determine a sum of money intended to cover the cost of care needs.

However, case law supports that in using this method to decide how much funding they provide, councils should not lose sight of the duty to meet assessed eligible needs.

What does having substantial needs mean?

You have substantial needs if you:

  • have, or will have, only partial choice and control over your immediate environment
  • have been, or will be, abused or neglected
  • can't, or won't be able to, carry out most personal care or domestic routines
  • can't, or won't be able to, sustain your involvement in many aspects of work, education or learning
  • can't, or won't be able to, sustain most social support systems and relationships
  • can't, or won't be able to, undertake most family and other social roles and responsibilities

After your care needs have been assessed, and if you are eligible for social care support, your council will assess your finances to see if you can contribute to care costs.

Direct payments

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Changes to social care

This guide was updated for Scope by Advicenow in March 2015. It applies to England only.

It is not meant as a substitute for legal advice.