If you’re disabled and need support, you can ask for a needs assessment from your local authority. If you’re eligible, you’ll get a care and support plan. You may get a personal budget, which is what the council thinks your care will cost.
You can let the council manage your personal budget or decide to manage it yourself. If you manage it yourself, you receive the money to pay for your care as a direct payment.
You can also choose a ‘mixed package’. This means the council arranges your care and you only receive some of your personal budget as a direct payment.
Your council can organise your care for you or you can choose to do it yourself. If you decide to do it yourself, you’ll receive your personal budget as a direct payment. You may wish to think about how you manage this money so that you can keep a separate record of your social care expenses.
Depending on your needs assessment, you may have to pay some extra money on top of your direct payment.
Your local authority will review your direct payments after the first 6 months, and then every 12 months.
Advantages of direct payments
You have control over your support.
You have more control over who provides your care.
You choose where to recruit your PA from (councils select from a small range of approved service providers).
Disadvantages of direct payments
It takes time and effort to organise your support.
If you employ a personal assistant, you’ll have the responsibilities of an employer.
You must keep all receipts and other financial documents to show how you spend your personal budget.
You’ll need to arrange back-up support if your regular PA is ill or on holiday.
Using direct payments
You must use direct payments for things agreed in your care and support plan.
These may include:
care agency support
support at work or in education
help eating or preparing meals
club memberships, such as gyms or social groups
leisure activities and short breaks
hiring a personal assistant
These may not include:
permanent residential care
services that your local authority already provides
illegal goods or activities
Using your personal budgets
Some councils offer a prepaid card to buy the things agreed in your care and support plan.
Once you have received payment, you can use it to pay for what’s in your plan. Your social worker will discuss with you the ways you can use your personal budget to meet those needs.
A good way to plan your budget is to list the things you need and estimate their cost.
Managing direct payments
Ask your local authority if they offer support services in helping you manage your direct payment. Disability Rights UK runs a personal budgets helpline.
Some local disabled people’s organisations offer support to manage direct payments.
Authorising someone to manage your direct payments
If you do not have the mental capacity to manage a personal budget, an authorised person can manage it for you. This may be a family member, friend or personal assistant. Speak to your local authority about this.
The authorised person can get support in managing direct payments from the local authority.
Direct payments - what's best for you
Direct payments give you more control over your care and support. If you feel confident about managing the people and services you need, direct payments may be the right choice for you.
If you do not want to deal with the extra responsibility of arranging your own care, direct payments may not be a good idea.
If you’re happy for your local authority to provide the services you need, it may make sense to let them manage your personal budget.