Direct payments are a way for the council to pay an agreed amount of money directly to you, so that you can buy and arrange your own services and support.
They are a way of giving people more choice and control over how their care and support needs are met, to help them live as independently as possible.
What is a direct payment?
A direct payment is one of a number of ways you can choose to spend your personal budget. Your personal budget is the amount of money you are entitled to receive, to pay for services and support to meet your assessed care and support needs. Other common ways to spend a personal budget are: where the Council buys and arranges services on your behalf (‘traditional’ services); or where a service provider buys and arranges services for you (‘individual service funds’). If you would like more information about different ways to spend a personal budget, please speak to your social care worker
What can you buy with a direct payment?
A direct payment helps you to arrange and pay for your social care and support, instead of the council arranging services for you. Having a direct payment means that you will be responsible for choosing and arranging your own care. This could include:
- Paying for support from a care agency of your choice, if you would prefer to find your own services rather than the Council choosing for you;
- Employing a paid carer (also called a ‘personal assistant’) directly. Having a personal assistant can give you more flexibility about who supports you, when and how. It also means you would be responsible for recruiting, paying wages and supervising staff;
- Paying for an alternative to traditional short stays in residential care homes (‘respite’) or Council-arranged daytime support services (‘day care’);
- Buying a piece of equipment or technology as an alternative to paid care.
A direct payment can be used to buy any type of service or support as long as it is within your agreed budget, it is legal and safe to do so and it is used to achieve the outcomes you have agreed in your care and support plan.
Who can have a direct payment?
You can only have a direct payment if:
- Following an assessment of your care and support needs, the Council agrees that you are eligible for certain social care services
- Your social care needs (and the outcomes you wish to achieve) are agreed between you and the Council and written down in your care and support plan
In most cases, to have a direct payment, you must be able to understand and make decisions about the kind of care and support you want. You must also be able to understand and manage the financial and legal side of having a payment (or know a trusted person who can do this on your behalf).
The following people may have a direct payment:
- Adults with care and support needs
- Parents of (or people with parental responsibility for) a child with care and support needs, to pay for services for the family
- Carers with support needs, for services to meet the carer’s own assessed need
- People with care and support needs who have parental responsibility for a child, for services to support their parenting role
- An appointed suitable person for someone who lacks capacity to arrange their own services and/or manage their own direct payment (the council must agree who the suitable person is).
There are some circumstances where it may not be possible or appropriate to use direct payments. Your social care worker will be able to tell you about these.
Where can I get more information and advice?
Although you will be responsible for managing your own direct payment, you can also ask for support and advice from trusted friends / family, an independent broker or a community support organisation, such as the Independent Living Advisors at Warrington Disability Partnership.
Independent Living Advisors are an independent team who can tell you about and support you with direct payments, including how to recruit and employ paid carers. They can explain:
- The different options for your care and support services
- The benefits to you of using direct payments
- Your responsibilities, if you arrange your care and support using direct payments along with the terms and conditions for receiving direct payments
They can give you practical support with:
- Planning how you will spend your direct payment
- Advertising, recruiting and employing your own staff, and filling in the required forms and paperwork if that is the option you choose
Independent Living Advisors can be contacted at:
Tel: 01925 240064
How is my direct payment amount calculated?
Everybody who is eligible for social care and support services should be told their indicative personal budget, following their assessment. Your indicative budget is worked out based on your individual care and support needs. It is an indication of the amount of money the Council would typically spend to meet your individual needs.
In many cases, The Council will not need to give you as much money as your indicative budget. This is because it can often be more cost-effective for you to arrange your own care. For instance, the hourly cost of a personal assistant is usually lower than the amount it costs the Council to arrange a service for you. This is because we have to pay additional management costs.
Before you receive your direct payment, you will agree with your social care worker exactly how much money is needed to meet your care and support needs. This means that the hourly rate you receive may be higher if you decide to use a care agency compared to employing your own staff.
If you disagree with the amount that has been allocated for your direct payment, you should first discuss this with your social care worker. Your allocated amount must be enough to meet your eligible needs. In situations where your social care worker is unable to resolve your concerns about your direct payment amount, the decision may be taken to a funding panel.
How are direct payments paid?
The council usually provides direct payments on a pre-payment debit card. Direct payments are tax-free and do not affect your benefits or income.
Your Direct Payment will be made in advance every four weeks. Your funds will be paid directly into your debit-card account and you will have the option of using online or telephone banking to access and manage your funds.
If, following a financial assessment you are required to make a contribution towards your care and support service costs, you must pay the agreed amount into your debit-card account. By putting your assessed contribution into your account, you are making sure that there is always enough money to pay for your support.
You can only use your direct payment to buy care and support as agreed in your support plan.
If you decide to employ a personal assistant you must meet the legal requirements of being an employer. Support is available to you to recruit a personal assistant and understand your roles and responsibilities as an employer. It is possible for friends/family members to be employed as a personal assistant although the employment of relatives who live in the same household as you is usually not allowed, unless exceptional circumstances are agreed.
If you wish to use a care agency we recommend that you purchase care from a provider who is registered with the Care Quality Commission, who inspect the standards provided by agencies nationally. You can find out if an agency is registered by visiting www.cqc.org.uk
Your direct payment will be regularly reviewed, and you can contact the Council at any time if you want to make any changes.