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A direct payment is a cash payment made directly to you so you can buy your own support rather than having it delivered to you by your local authority. The payment must be enough for you to buy services that meet your care needs and the money must be spent on services that meet those needs.

Many people take a direct payment so that they can employ their own personal assistant. There are direct payment support services available to help you manage your direct payment; Penderels Trust is a leading provider of these services.

You will be required to keep a record of how you spend your direct payment and your local authority will want to see those records, usually once a quarter.

Direct payments are available wherever you live in the United Kingdom and are available to adults with disabilities (including those who lack mental capacity), families of children with a disability and carers. A direct payment cannot be used to purchase residential care or services provided directly by a local authority.

The support services offered to direct payment recipients do vary from one local authority area to another. Here are some questions that we are frequently asked about direct payments.

How do I get a direct payment?

To request a direct payment you need to contact your social services department who will arrange a community care assessment.

Your social worker or care co-ordinator will discuss the assessment when you meet. Once you have been assessed, there is no time limit for you to decide whether to have a direct payment or not. If you decide you would like a direct payment your social worker or care co-ordinator will refer you to Penderels Trust.

An independent living adviser (ILA) will make an appointment to visit you at a convenient time to discuss your direct payment, together with your options and your responsibilities. If you still wish to use a direct payment, your ILA will be available to offer support as necessary.

Will I have to pay any of my own money towards my care?

You may be required to make a contribution to the cost of your care – just as you may already be paying towards services provided by your local authority. Any contribution you do make is based on your ability to pay. A financial assessment will be carried out by an officer from the LA before you make any decisions regarding the receipt of a direct payment.

If I decide I want a direct payment, can I change my mind later?

Yes. You can opt in or opt out of receiving a direct payment at any time. A few people experience some problems at the outset as everything is new to them, but your ILA will discuss ways of enabling you to manage your direct payment more easily.

How does having a direct payment affect any benefits I receive?

It will depend on your own personal circumstances. We advise you to speak to your local authority representative (such as your social worker or the direct payments team).

Who can receive a direct payment?

In most circumstances, if you are already entitled to community care services, you will have the right to be offered a direct payment. Direct payments are available to many people, including:
  • People with physical disabilities
  • People with a sensory impairment
  • People with learning disabilities
  • People using mental health services
  • People affected by HIV / AIDS
  • Carers of any of the above groups
  • People with parental responsibility for a disabled child
  • Older people

Your social worker/care co-ordinator will discuss your eligibility with you and will explain what level of support, if any, you may need to manage your direct payment.

You must want to have a direct payment – no one can force you to have this.

Can I have help to manage my direct payment?

Yes. A direct payment can be managed by you alone or you can have friends and/or family to help you manage this. Alternatively you can choose to use a support service such as Penderels Trust.

We are able to assist with all aspects of a direct payment, for example helping you to manage your care money, dealing with employment issues, paying your staff etc. Once your package is established your independent living adviser will assist you to take on more responsibility for the management of your direct payment, but will always be available to support you if things go wrong.

How will social services pay the money to me?

Social services will pay the money directly into a bank account that must be used for the money involved in funding your support i.e. direct payment money, your contribution (if you have to make one) and money from the independent living fund (if you receive this). You must not use this bank account for any personal money.

How do social services monitor my use of the direct payment?

Social services will ask you to complete simple monitoring forms (often called 'quarterly returns' if completed every 3 months). It is likely you will also have to provide receipts for income and expenditure, in addition to bank statements. Your independent living adviser will offer advice and support to help you complete any monitoring satisfactorily.

Can I employ a relative as my personal assistant?

A direct payment is not intended to replace existing networks of family support. However you can employ a relative who does not live at the same address as you, if you feel this helps.

Be sure to discuss this with your independent living adviser first to make sure you are aware of all the options.

What happens if I have a problem with the staff I employ?

Some people are understandably apprehensive about becoming an employer. We have many years experience assisting people to live independently, with many types of support.

Your independent living adviser can guide you with all aspects of employment, from the recruitment stage to establishing employment contracts, inducting, training and paying staff and, if necessary, resolving any disputes. In the event of disputes you can also seek independent advice from the Arbitration, Conciliation and Advisory Service (ACAS) on:

0845 7474747 or by visiting their website:

Specific details on employment and payroll matters appear in separate leaflets in this guide. We also provide access to an employment indemnity and advice service, however this cannot usually be funded from your direct payment money.

Can I use my direct payment to buy long-term residential care?

No. But it can be used to buy short-term 'respite' breaks. Discuss this option further with your social worker or your independent living adviser.

Can I use my direct payment to buy services from my local authority?

No. A direct payment is an alternative to services offered by your local social services department. However you can choose to have your needs met by using a package of care, e.g. partly with community care services and partly with a direct payment.

What if there was an emergency and I was left without a service?

Your ILA will help you prepare a 'contingency' (back-up) plan to cover occasions when your PA or care agency cannot provide a service. In such cases social services may put extra money into your care account to cover any additional costs of care. Social services have a legal 'duty of care' and in an emergency they may choose to meet your needs by providing emergency agency cover.

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