Home Help for families Information & Advice Social care How to access services Personal budgets and direct payments
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Local authorities might offer families the option of a personal or individual budget to pay for services and practical support. If they do, you may be able to request a direct payment.
If the local authority decides that your family is eligible for help following a needs assessment, it’ll give you a personal budget to meet these needs.
A personal budget is an amount of money to spend based on how much it will cost in your local area to arrange the care and support your child needs.
Note that where we refer to the local authority social services department, this also includes the Health and Social Care Services in Scotland and the Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland.
Personal budgets usually work in one of the following ways:
If your local authority agrees that your child needs services or practical support, you can choose to receive the payments to buy and organise these services yourself. This money is then paid to you in the form of direct payments.
Direct Payments can be a good way to be creative and flexible when managing your child’s care. But they can involve more work for you to arrange and manage the care provided. If you’re employing someone directly, you will need to deal with tax, National Insurance and pension issues for them. You should also arrange insurance and a criminal record check.
Some of the ways direct payments can be used are:
Direct payments should give you more control over how your child’s needs are met. There are several reasons you might choose to receive direct payments instead of having services organised by the local authority:
It is important to be aware that local councils can refuse to give personal budgets or direct payments if they are considered an inefficient or impractical use of resources.
In England, your personal budget may come from your local social services team, local education department or in some cases from your NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG).
The personal budget for education is included in an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan and will only include the funds needed to buy more specialist or individual support than the school or college is expected to provide.
Social services are required to offer personal budgets to disabled people aged 18 or over who they assess as needing social care. Although they are not obliged to offer a personal budget to a disabled child under the age of 18, an increasing number of councils do offer them.
Anyone receiving NHS continuing healthcare, including a child, has the right to have a personal health budget. This sets out the funding available to meet the healthcare needs that have been agreed by health professionals in a care and support plan.
A care and support plan helps people to identify their health and wellbeing goals, and then sets out how the funding in their personal budget will be spent to achieve these goals.
Social service departments, education authorities and CCGs are being encouraged to work together. The aim is to establish arrangements allowing for single personal budgets that cover someone’s social care, education and healthcare needs. How this personal budget is used is then set out in an EHC plan.
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