Direct Payments

From April 2001 every local Council, with Social Services responsibilities, must offer people receiving social services money instead of arranging services for them. Direct Payments give you the choice to arrange the type of care you need when you want it. Giving money instead of services gives you greater control over your life and gives you the means to decide how and when your care is provided.

What are Direct Payments?

Direct Payments is money given to those who are eligible, to enable them to be responsible for providing their own social care needs instead of having the services provided for them.

What are Indirect Payments?

Indirect Payments is when somebody else manages your money for you. This can be a friend or a member of your family or even an organisation.

Who can receive Direct Payments?

If you already receive social services your local council is obliged to offer you the option of direct payments in place of the services you currently receive. There are some limited circumstances where you are not given this choice and your council will be able to tell you about these.

If you’re not receiving social services and would like to see if you are eligible you’ll need to contact your local council to ask them to assess your needs.

Social services – and therefore direct payments – are normally available if you are:
• disabled and aged 16 or over
• a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a disabled child
• an older person

From 9th November 2009 new regulations will extend Direct Payments to include people who lack the capacity to consent and to people with mental health problems.

Why choose Direct Payments?

It may be that the social services provided by the local Council is not flexible enough for a person’s needs or that the help or carer arranged by the local Council cannot be available at the time wanted. Direct Payments provides the means to arrange the type of care needed to be available for the time it is needed.

Why decide not to choose Direct Payments?

If a person is happy with the present services arranged by their local Council then they can continue to use these services instead of opting for Direct Payments.

How are arrangements made to receive Direct Payments?

Your social worker will discuss the options during the care needs assessment. People already using the local Council‘s social services, can contact them for advice.

Some people may have been offered services by their local Council and turned them down but may now want to reconsider Direct Payments as an alternative. Ask your local Council.

How can Direct Payments money be spent?

The money received from Direct Payments is to be spent on providing care to suit individual needs, including necessary equipment, as assessed by the local Council. Direct Payments can also be used to pay for payroll services and certain insurance costs. Your Council will explain how Direct Payments can or cannot be spent.

This report (published 2nd November) form the House of Commons library gives a brief overview of the rules governing the provision and use of Direct payments and personal budgets for social care and provides information on the development of personal budgets for care.

Will a financial contribution need to be made towards the cost of care needs when receiving Direct Payments?

A financial contribution may be required towards the cost of care, just as there are charges for some local care services. Your local Council will be able to advise about their charging policy and discuss any financial contribution required before a decision is made whether to receive Direct Payments.

Can changes be made in the way that Direct Payments is spent?

If care needs change and there is a need to change the way Direct Payments are spent, these changes must be discussed with the local Council. It is advisable to find out your local Council’s flexibility and what changes can be made without asking or informing them.

Will receiving Direct Payments affect social security benefits or taxable income?

No, Direct Payments will not be taken into consideration for income-related social security or as taxable income.

Can the decision to receive Direct Payments be altered once payments are being made?

Even if Direct Payments have been chosen and is being paid, this decision can be changed at any time. Just contact your local Council and ask them to stop making Direct Payments and arrange services instead.

What if the services offered by the local Council meets part of the care needs?

If someone prefers to still use some of the local Council’s services, the local Council may offer a combination of Direct Payments and local Council services.

What responsibilities are there when receiving Direct Payments?

To be able to receive Direct Payments the local Council must be satisfied that the services intended to be bought will meet the assessed care needs.  People receiving Direct Payments are responsible for managing the necessary paperwork and for arranging the services needed. They will also be responsible for sorting out any problems with the service that arise and to account for the money spent.

If the person receiving Direct Payments employs a Personal Assistant, they will need to meet the legal responsibilities of an employer.

Can Direct Payments be used to employ a relative?

Normally, Direct Payments cannot be used to employ a husband/wife or any close relative that lives with the person receiving Direct Payments. There may be circumstances when the local Council will agree to a relative being employed using Direct Payments. Ask your local Council.

How are P.A.s recruited?

A Personal Assistant can be employed directly by the person receiving Direct Payments or through an agency. If a P.A. is contracted directly through an agency, the agency would be accountable to the Direct Payment recipient and not the Council. The agency will ensure that the Personal Assistant has been checked with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and all the legal responsibilities of an employer rests with the agency.

The websites of Care Quality Commission (formerly the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI)) and the United Kingdom Home Care Association (UKHCA) both allow you to search for a home care agency in your local area. The CQC  website also contains inspection reports on individual home care agencies.

Or  find a local agency. The local Council may be able to provide a list of agencies in their area. It is advisable to contact more than one agency finding out what each one offers and the cost of these services.

To advertise for a PA try putting an advert in the Library or Community Centre, local college, Centres for Independent Living and local shops and newsagents.

The Department of Health has put together a list of questions that people wishing to employ a P.A. through an agency should consider asking.

What happens in an emergency?

Back-up arrangements must be made for occasions when a P.A. may not be available to attend work due to illness etc. The local Council will discuss what arrangements they will expect to be made. The Council may be prepared to give extra money to purchase services in an emergency. Whatever arrangements are made, there are no circumstances where people needing care should be left without services. The local Council must be contacted if help is needed at any time.

What if all the Direct Payments money is not spent?

If assistance is not needed for a short period, for example if a stay in hospital is needed or if conditions improve, the local Council should be contacted so that they can adjust the Direct Payments. The Council will ask for any money spent on something that does not meet the assessed needs to be repaid.

What if there are problems with managing Direct Payments or the services it buys?

If the assessed needs of the person receiving Direct Payments are not being met with the services being bought using Direct Payments, the local Council will either give extra help in arranging those services or arrange services directly for them.

Will the local Council help with the decision whether to receive Direct Payments?

The Department of Health has produced a list of questions you should ask your local Council before deciding whether to receive Direct Payments.

Can I also claim money from the Independent Living Fund (ILF)?

The ILF makes payments to disabled people so that they can employ P.A.s or a care agency to help them with Personal and domestic assistance. The money comes from the Government and it enables people to live at home with choice and control over the assistance they receive.

To find out if you are eligible and how to apply see the ILF website.

Additional Information

Skills for Care have produced a booklet ‘Getting Started – A Guide for Direct Payments Customers

SCIE have produced a booklet called Direct Payments:Answering frequently asked questions

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