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Applying for a personal budget for your child

Your child may be entitled to a personal budget. This is money your local authority provides to cover your child’s changing care and support costs.

Your child will be assessed to create a care and support plan around their health, social and educational needs. How much money you get depends on:

  • the type and level of support your child needs
  • your family’s situation and needs
  • the services already available in your area

There’s no set list of things you can use a personal budget for. It depends on what you feel your child needs and if the assessor agrees.

You may want a personal budget to:

  • hire a personal assistant (PA) to help your child with everyday care
  • buy special equipment not provided by the NHS
  • pay for leisure or educational activities and transport costs

Warning If you live in Wales

The application process is different in Wales. You can apply for self-directed support through social services. This is similar to a personal budget.

Who is eligible for a personal budget

Because personal budgets are based on individual needs and many pieces of legislation, there are no set criteria for who is eligible. Your local authority should be able to explain how they make their decisions and how long it will take.

In England

The Children Act 1989 (GOV.UK) considers any disabled child under 18 ‘a child in need'. Local authorities have a duty to provide support.

Depending on your child’s age and needs, you can start the process and apply for an assessment through:

  • your child’s school or Special Educational Needs (SEN) team
  • your GP, consultant or healthcare professional
  • your local authority

SEN support and EHC plans at school

Contact your local authority (GOV.UK)

Search for services (SENDirect)

The assessor will arrange a visit with you and your child. They will explain the process. Ask them to explain if anything is unclear.

They will assess health, social and educational needs separately but combine them into a single plan. If your child has multiple needs, you will be referred to other departments for more assessments. Each assessment is separate.

This can take time but they must start the process within 6 weeks. Contact your first assessor who made the referral if you do not hear anything in that time.

In Wales

You can apply for an assessment directly through social services. Under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, your child may be entitled to what is called ‘self-directed support’. This is similar to a personal budget. You receive payments to cover care and support costs.

Find your local social services (NHS Wales)

In England and Wales, each disabled child has an individual assessment.

You can have a separate carer’s assessment to see what services, support and funding you’re entitled to. You do not need to be a registered carer to apply.

Preparing for a carer’s assessment

Types of payment

There are 2 types of payment:

  • Direct payment, where the payment is made to you.
  • Pooled payment, where direct payments from people with similar needs can be added together to pay for a service.

Pooled payments are paid to the service provider. For example, your direct payment could go towards funding a special unit at your child’s school.

If there's already a service in your area that meets your child's needs, you may need to use that service instead of organising your own. You can check what’s available with your local authority, health board or your child’s school.

Managing the personal budget

You do not have to manage your child's personal budget yourself. You can nominate someone to manage it for you or use the local authority services.

You can also choose to receive part of the budget if there are specialist services or equipment you want to organise yourself, such as support for activities like swimming or a customised wheelchair.

If your child is 16 or older and is assessed to have the capacity to do so, they can ask to manage their own payment or nominate someone to manage it for them.

Apply for direct payments (GOV.UK)

Things to prepare before you apply

The assessor will ask questions about your family life and finances, like how you spend your Disability Living Allowance (DLA). They may also look around your home and ask to see your child’s bedroom.

There are things you can prepare before your child’s assessment to make it easier.

Make a list of your child’s needs

Break your child’s needs down into 3 categories: health, social and education. Consider the following questions:

  • What would help your child feel more independent?
  • How will their needs change?
  • What do you need as a family to make daily life easier?
  • Are there specific times of day they need support, like the school run, bathtime or bedtime?
  • How does their needs affect your other children?
  • Does your child need constant supervision, personal support for specific activities or occasional support?
  • Can they carry out tasks appropriate to their age? For example, tying shoelaces or brushing teeth. This is sometimes called 'ages and stages'.
  • What risks are you concerned about? Do you need support to put a safety plan in place?

Understanding ages and stages (Keep Connected)

Prepare the assessor

During the assessment, the assessor may need to see your child on their own. They will also ask them questions. To make sure your child feels comfortable, let the assessor know about:

  • any hobbies or things your child enjoys
  • any reasonable adjustments or resources needed for the assessment, such as comfort breaks, interpreters (like Makaton or British Sign Language) or talking mats
  • how they like to communicate
  • any things that upset them

Warning Think about bad days

Do not exaggerate but provide examples of your child’s bad days. What seems normal or easy to you or your child might not be to others, especially if you’re both used to things.

Make sure you include everything that’s difficult or impossible to do, even if it’s not every day. And explain why it’s difficult or impossible.

If your child’s personal budget is denied

If the assessor decides your child does not need a care and support plan, contact them to find out why. If you feel that the decision is unfair or they saw your child on a good day, you can:

  • gather information and evidence from other professionals to appeal the decision
  • ask for a second opinion from another GP, consultant or health professional
  • formally appeal a SEN or educational decision through your Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or school
  • make a complaint to social services

What to do if your child does not get an EHCP

Last reviewed by Scope on: 10/03/2020

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