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A direct payment is cash paid to you to buy your social care support

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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.

Direct payments for people who need social care support have been around for over twenty years, but more recently people with long term health care needs can now receive a direct payment as part of their personal health budget. These are controlled by the Integrated Care Boards (NHS) as opposed to the 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.

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 a direct payment support services provider like Penderels Trust.  In some local authority areas, there is a list of approved providers and you can choose which one you would like to work with.

If you are going to be supported by Penderels Trust, an independent living adviser (ILA) will make an appointment to contact you at a convenient time to discuss your direct payment and what your options are and what is involved.

You may be required to make a contribution towards 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 local authority before you need to decide about having a direct payment.

If your care package is dependent on you making a personal contribution, it is very important that you make arrangements to make this payment.

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 independent living adviser (ILA) will discuss ways of helping you to manage your direct payment more easily.

No. Any money you receive from your local authority (LA) as a direct payment for care, will not affect any benefits you receive from the Department of Work and Pensions. A direct payment is not liable for income tax.

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.

Receiving a direct payment instead of direct care services can seem daunting at the beginning.  This is where a support services provider like Penderels Trust can help.  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 (ILA) will assist you to take on more responsibility for the management of your direct payment, but will always be available to support you if you need some help.

The way support services are offered to direct recipients does vary from one local authority area to another.  Your ILA will let you know what services you can receive in your area and whether you need to pay for them or if they are funding by your local authority.

You will need to open a separate bank account for your direct payment.  Once the costing has been done for your care package and the amount of money agreed, the local authority will pay the agreed amount every four weeks into your direct payment bank account.  It is usually slightly higher than the amount you need to pay out to your staff or care agency.  This creates a small 'reserve' which should be left in the account.

When you take on a direct payment, it is your responsibility to make sure there is always enough money in your account to pay for your care support, such as staff wages or care agency invoices.  You will be accountable to the local authority for your spending.

You need to keep track of money coming in to and leaving the account.  Your independent living adviser (ILA) can help you to keep a record of this.  Most local authorities require you to provide a record of income and expenditure and copies of your direct payment bank account statements.  This is usually requested every three months and is often referred to as 'financial monitoring'.

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.

Some people are understandably apprehensive about becoming an employer. We have many years of 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: www.acas.org.uk.

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.

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.

Your independent living adviser (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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