Personal Budgets and Direct Payments​​

A Personal Budget is money allocated by the Council to meet someone’s assessed care and support needs; it can be taken as a Direct Payment or people may choose to let the Council arrange their services 

Personal Budget

A Personal Budget is an amount of money that is available to be spent on your care following your social care needs assessment.  You can choose to receive your budget as a cash payment so that you can buy the care and support to meet the needs identified in your assessment yourself.  This is called a Direct Payment.  Alternatively, the council can arrange your care and support for you.

Direct Payments 

Please use the links below to find out more about Direct Payments: 

  1. What is a Direct Payment?
  2. Your Benefits and Direct Payments
  3. Paying your contribution
  4. How you can receive your Direct Payment
  5. How you can use your Direct Payment
  6. What you can and cannot spend your money on
  7. Contracting with an Agency Provider
  8. Employing Personal Assistants
  9. Managing your direct payments
  10. How to get help​​
  1. What is a Direct Payment?​

A Direct Payment is funding given to people who have been assessed as eligible to receive council funded care and support.  So instead of the council arranging or providing your services directly, you are given the money to buy the support and services you need.  They can offer you greater choice and control over the care and support you receive and how it is provided.

Direct Payments can be made to:

  • disabled people aged 16 or over (with short or long-term needs)
  • parents of disabled children
  • older people
  • carers aged 16 or over (for their own needs)
  1. ​​ Your benefits and Direct Payments

A Direct Payment isn’t considered as income and it is not intended as a replacement for benefits such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  It will not affect any of your existing benefits.

  1. Paying your contribution

If you are over 18 you will have a financial assessment to determine how much (if anything) you will need to pay towards the cost of your care and support.  If you do have to pay 

towards the cost of your care and support you will receive an invoice every four weeks to pay your contribution directly to the Council.

  1. How you can receive your Direct Payment

The main delivery methods for receiving a Direct Payment are:

  • Prepaid card – your Direct Payment will be paid in advance every four weeks and the money is loaded onto a dedicated bank card to allow you to make electronic transactions/online banking/telephone banking to access and manage your funds.
  • Managed Account – your Direct Payment will be paid in advance to a third party managed account organisation who will administer the Direct Payment on your behalf and pay invoices/wages your personal assistants if you employ your own staff and pay HRMC any tax/ni due. You remain accountable for ensuring your direct payment is used appropriately.
  • Self-Managed Direct Payment – your Direct Payment will be paid in advance every four weeks directly into a bank account (which must be separate from your own personal finances) this account must only be used for the sole purpose of your direct payment 
  1. How you can use your Direct Payment

You can be flexible in how you use your Direct Payment and your Social Worker will talk to you about how much support you may need and will work out how much funding there is for your care.  A support plan will be put together which will include details of how the Direct Payment can be spent.  You can choose to write this yourself, or have help to do this from your Social Worker.

The things that you choose to spend your Direct Payment funding on must meet your assessed care and support needs. These will be described as outcomes in your support plan.  This has to be agreed and authorised by the relevant Social Care Team before the Direct Payment is set up.

Before the Direct Payment starts you, or your representative, will sign a Direct Payment Agreement, which says that you will only use the funding as agreed in your Support Plan.

  1. What you can and cannot spend your money on

What you can spend your money on

Here are some things that people use their Direct Payments for:

  • to pay someone to support you, such as a support worker or personal assistant
  • to purchase support through a service provider of your choice
  • to pay for other ways to meet your needs such as joining a social group in your local community
  • extra support at school
  • community based short breaks or respite
  • domestic and household tasks

What you cannot spend your money on

You can only spend your Direct Payment on the care and support included in your Support Plan, as agreed with your Social Worker.

You will be asked for details of how you have spent your Direct Payment and for receipts and timesheets (if you employ Personal Assistants).

You cannot spend your Direct Payments:

  • on everyday living costs (these will be covered by means tested benefit or, if you have your own assets, should be funded by your own income):
  • household bills, such as rent or mortgage, Council Tax or utility bills
  • on food shopping
  • on costs already considered by other benefit payments ie. travel for those receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which includes mobility allowance
  • to buy alcohol, tobacco or gambling
  • on anything illegal
  • on services or support that are considered to be the responsibility of the NHS, for example dental, chiropody, psychological or physiotherapy services
  • on permanent residential or nursing care
  • to pay for short term support such as Intermediate Care or Reablement services
  • to pay for services that are directly provided by Halton Council
  • to pay for services from a spouse, family member or partner who lives in the same household as the service user, unless this has been agreed by the social worker, due to exceptional circumstances
  • to pay for non-statutory liabilities, such as tips, bonuses or ex gratia payments.

Please note this list is not exhaustive and you must agree what you can spend your money on with your Social worker. 

  1. Contracting with an Agency Provider

​You may want to use an agency to provide the care and support you need. The agency will provide a service through a trained team of care workers, which means you may not always have the same person visiting your home, although the agency will do its best to take your choices into account.  If the agency is providing Personal Care, then the homecare providers are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Homecare agencies must meet CQC’s national minimum standards and regulations in areas such as training and record-keeping. The CQC has the power to inspect agencies and enforce standards.  

Further information and advice on choosing an Agency Provider is available in the fact sheet section below. 

  1. Employing Personal Assistants

You may want to employ your own personal assistants rather than contracting with an Agency.  A personal assistant is usually employed directly by you or a ‘suitable person’.  If you employ a personal assistant you need to ensure that you follow employment law as you become responsible for the health and safety of your personal assistant who you employ. 

If you are going to employ your own Personal Assistants there are a range of useful tools and guides available here: Skills for Care 

Self Employed Personal Assistants

It is your responsibility to correctly determine the employment status of your workers – that is, whether they are employed by you or self-employed.  Guidance is available her: Understanding the employment status of personal assistants (PAs) 

  1. Managing your direct payments

The council will keep a check on your spending to make sure that your outcomes continue to be achieved.  You will also have the responsibilities that come with managing a budget and potentially becoming an employer (such as employing a personal assistant). 

You'll need to be confident with money and paperwork to have a direct payment as you'll need to provide receipts and invoices to us when requested. We'll carry out regular checks to make sure your money is being used in the correct way. If we do not receive information when requested, or you break the terms of the Service User Agreement, we may suspend your direct payment. 

If an individual lacks capacity to receive a direct payment then every effort should be made to appoint a recipient who is a ‘suitable person’ to manage the payments on your behalf or the ‘suitable person’ can opt for a managed account, whereby a third party manages all aspects of your direct payment and financial monitoring on your behalf. 

  1. ​​​​​​ How to get help

The Council’s Direct Payments Team are available to help you with the following things:

  • recruitment of Personal Assistants if you wish to use them
  • employment contracts
  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks to check people’s past history before they work for you
  • finding the right insurance cover
  • explaining how to keep records of what you spend your Direct Payment on
  • finding suitable training for any Personal Assistants that you may be employing
  • registering any Personal Assistants with HMRC so that they pay the correct tax
  • provide you with a Payroll Service
  • explaining the rules you have to follow if you have a Direct Payment
  • understanding the ‘Direct Payment Agreement’
  • ongoing support to help you manage your Direct Payment 

Help if you are struggling to manage your Direct Payment

If at any point you feel that a Direct Payment is not working for you, for any reason, you can discuss this with the Direct Payments Team. Depending on the reasons why the Direct Payment is not working, you may need to speak with your Social Worker to put in place a different type of support.

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about Direct Payments, please contact the Direct Payments Team, who will be happy to help you.

Telephone: 0151 511 7575

Fact Sheets

For more information and advice please see the range of documents below which you may find useful:

Direct Payment Fact Sheet

Direct Payment Rate and Agency Provider List​​​

Prepaid Card FAQ’s

Prepaid Card Halton Guide

Direct Payment Audit Fact Sheet

Managed Account Fact Sheet

Health and Safety Guide

Personal Assistant Fact Sheet

Skills for care - Employing personal assistants toolkit

Government Guidance - Care Act Fact Sheets

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