If your local authority is providing you with social care services, they may arrange this themselves. They will pay all or part of the costs. You can read more in our section - What is social care and will I be charged?.
Another option is for social services to give you the money they provide to allow you to buy services or pay someone to help you. If they do this, the money the local authority gives you is called a ‘direct payment’. You might still be charged for your care; it just means the local authority is giving you their part of the money to use yourself.
Social services give you the money they provide to allow you to buy services or pay someone to help you.
Your local authority should tell you how they do direct payments. They should explain how you can get them and what they expect you to do.
Do I have to have direct payments?
You do not have to get direct payments. You may want social services to meet your needs instead. But your local authority must offer you direct payments if you meet the criteria.
What if I am getting free aftercare under ‘section 117’?
You can get direct payments to pay for your aftercare services. The rules are similar to getting direct payments normally.
Will direct payments affect my benefits?
No, direct payments will not count as income and will not affect your benefits.
Can I get direct payments?
You can get direct payments if:
- You have eligible social care needs,
- You can make decisions for yourself,
- You ask for direct payments,
- You can manage a direct payment alone or with help, and
- Direct payments will help to meet your needs.
Your care coordinator or social services department need to check if you can manage direct payments by yourself or with support. You will need to be organised, keep track of your spending, and keep receipts. You can still get direct payments if you need help from a friend, relative, or someone else to do this.
Can someone else manage my direct payments for me?
Someone else can get direct payments for you, and help you to pay for the services you need. This person is called a ’nominated person’. They can help you to manage the money, but you will still need to decide how to spend it.
What if I do not have mental capacity to manage direct payments?
Mental capacity is a legal term that means you can make decisions.
If you cannot make a decision, you do not have ‘mental capacity’. This means if you cannot:
- Understand information about direct payments,
- Remember the information,
- Think about all the information to make a decision, or
- Let someone know what your decision is.
The local authority will ask you if you:
- Understand the decisions you will need to make, and
- What will happen if you make these decisions.
You can get direct payments if you lack capacity. A carer, friend or relative can ask for them and manage them for you. The local authority will only do this if they think that they are suitable and they will act in your best interests. Your local authority might say that this person is ‘authorised’ to help you.
What is the definition of a suitable person?
A suitable person:
- Can be someone who has been awarded lasting power of attorney (LPA) but it is unlikely that a financial LPA on its own will be sufficient,
- Can be someone who has been appointed a deputy for the person needing services by the Court of Protection under section 16 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005,
- Can be someone who has offered to act as a suitable person – this will need to be agreed by the care manager and the senior designated officer of the local authority, or
- Can be an organisation or third party appointed by the local authority – for example, a support scheme provider.
You can get direct payments if you lack capacity. A carer, friend or relative can ask for them and manage them for you.
How will I be paid Direct Payment?
Your local authority will pay your direct payments into your bank or building society account. You can set up a different account so it is easier to know how much you have left.
Some local authorities have schemes, such as ‘pre-paid cards’. You should ask them if you would like to know if your local authority has other options.
How much will I get?
This depends where you live and what support you need. Your care coordinator or social services will look at your social care needs. They will have a way to work out how much money you need to meet these needs. How much you get is called your ‘personal budget’. There must be enough money in your personal budget for you to buy services that will meet your needs.
Will I have to pay towards my direct payments?
Depending on how much money you have, the local authority may ask you to pay for some of your services. Your care coordinator or social services will do a financial assessment to decide if you have to pay. They will look at your income, savings and any property you own. You can read more about this in What is social care and will I have to pay?.
If you have to pay towards your care, this will be taken from your direct payments, or you might be asked to pay them back. If the care you want costs more money, you will have to make up the difference.
You might not have to contribute if you are eligible for Section 117 aftercare under the Mental Health Act.
What can I spend direct payments on?
You can spend direct payments on services, equipment, or activities that meet your social care needs. You can buy these from organisations or individuals.
There are different things that you could spend direct payments on. For example:
- Someone to care for you at home
- Transport, such as taxis
- Help with shopping or budgeting
- Educational classes (for example, art or writing classes)
- Pooling direct payments with other people to employ a tutor to give classes
- Respite, which could include a hotel stay or day trips with a friend
- Help with childcare
- Employing a personal assistant, or
- Going to the gym
Is there anything I cannot use my direct payments for?
You cannot use direct payments to pay for health services or permanent accommodation. You can use them to pay for short stays of up to four weeks in residential accommodation.
Can I use direct payments to pay a relative to care for me?
You may be able to use direct payments to pay a relative to meet your needs as long as you do not live with them.
If you live with a relative, you may be able to pay them to care for you or to help you to manage your direct payments. Your local authority has to decide if this is necessary. The local authority should give you and your carer information on any effects this will have on your carer’s income.
What do I need to know about managing Direct Payments?
You should keep receipts and records of what you have spent your direct payments on.
If you pay for someone, like a personal assistant, you will become their employer. This means that you have certain legal responsibilities, such as:
- Paying National Insurance,
- Allowing holidays,
- Taking out insurance, and
- Paying sick pay.
When social services or your care coordinator work out how much your direct payments are, they should include these costs. They should give you all the information you need about being an employer.
Local support organisations can often help with managing direct payments and being an employer.
How can I deal with problems with direct payments?
You can get help from a community advocate. An advocate can help you deal with your problems with the local authority.
If you want to complain, you need to use your local authorities’ complaints procedure.
If you feel that your local authority is not following the law, you can get legal advice. You would need to speak to a community care solicitor.
What if my direct payments are not enough?
Your direct payments may be too low because:
- Your local authority did not take all of your needs into account when working out the amount, or
- The way of working out how much you should get was not fair.
The local authority should review your situation in the first 6 months. This is to make sure you have enough money to buy services and you can manage direct payments. The first review should be 6-8 weeks after you signed off your care and support plan.
If you feel you are not getting enough money through direct payments, tell your social worker or care coordinator. They might be able to help. If that does not work, you can try some of the options we suggested above.
When will my direct payments end?
The local authority should only end your direct payments as a last resort. Your direct payments may end because:
- You want them to end,
- You cannot manage them anymore, even with support,
- You don’t need care and support any more, or
- You did not follow the conditions.
They can stop your payments temporarily if your condition improves for a short time.
If your direct payments stop, you can continue to get social care and support from social services. Your local authority should try to make sure there is no delay in getting you services to meet your needs.