Social care personal budgets and direct payments

Ways to manage a personal budget

Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities have a legal duty to provide personal budgets to whoever is eligible.

A personal budget is the funding needed to meet your eligible social care needs and outcomes. This should be in your Care and Support Plan (or Support Plan for Carers) alongside how you want your needs to be met.

This does not mean that the local authority will provide that level of funding. You may need to make a contribution once you have been financially assessed. The local authority must ensure that the personal budget is enough to meet your eligible needs.

There are different ways to manage a personal budget including:

  • The local authority holds the budget and arranges services to meet your eligible needs. This is sometimes called a managed budget. The local authority finds suitable services, pays service providers and deals with any issues.
  • You opt to receive and manage your personal budget and arrange and pay for the services and support to meet your eligible needs. This is called a Direct Payment. Some local authorities may allow a third party to receive and manage the direct payment on your behalf or support you to do this.
  • A mixed budget – the local authority keeps some of the budget and arranges some services; you receive some budget as a direct payment and arrange some services yourself.

Direct payments

Direct payments are money from a local authority towards meeting the cost of your care and support. The money is paid at regular intervals (usually every 4 weeks) into a bank or building society account that is separate from your private money, or into the account of a another person or organisation that the council has agreed can support you to manage the direct payment. Some local authorities use alternative methods of payment, such as pre-paid cards.

You can use this money to pay for care and support services to meet your eligible needs and outcomes as agreed in your Care and Support Plan (or Support Plan for carers).

Benefits of having a direct payment

  • More control over the support you receive and who will provide it.
  • A greater choice of services and providers – if the local authority manages the budget, it can only use approved service providers.
  • More flexibility on how you use your personal budget.
  • You can employ a personal assistant or your own care staff. Read our online community tips on employing a PA.
  • Local authorities normally provide information and support around direct payments. Some have specialist services to support you with your direct payment and employer responsibilities.

Direct payments: things to consider

  • You must use the money to meet the agreed eligible needs and outcomes in your Care and Support Plan (or Support Plan for carers).
  • If the local authority pays the budget into a bank account, this needs to be a separate account from your personal money.
  • You need to ensure that you make your contribution into your direct payment account.
  • You have to find and arrange services, such as care agencies and deal with any issues with service providers.
  • You have to account for how you use the money and provide receipts and financial returns information to the local authority.
  • If you use the money to employ your own staff, you will have to ensure that you meet the legal obligations of being an employer including payroll.

Finding a care agency or support services

If you are finding and arranging services yourself, visit the adult social care pages on your local authority website. They are likely to have a directory of local services including some care agencies, day services and activities.

You could also contact your local Disabled People’s Organisation to find details of local support services, care agencies, community information, support groups and activities.

Talk to family and friends. Do they have good feedback about services that they, or someone they know, have used?

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