What is a direct payment?
As a reminder, the Local Authority has a legal duty to offer you a personal budget if you are eligible for social care funding. The premise behind this is to give you the choice to arrange your own support to live a more independent life.
A direct payment (known as Option 1 Direct Payment) is an amount of money which is paid directly to you to allow you to buy the care and support you need. This is instead of having your support arranged for you.
The statutory guidance states ‘a direct payment is designed to be used flexibly and innovatively and there should be no unreasonable restriction placed on the use of the payment, as long as it is being used to meet eligible care and support needs’. This is in line with the personalisation principles that are set out within the Care Act. These principles provide the legal basis for adult social care.
What you can use your direct payments to pay for
Direct payments can be made for day-to-day things such as dressing, cooking, driving and support to facilitate discharge from hospital. They can also be used for social activities, visiting friends, evening classes, college courses, access to training and employment.
The money is transferred to you, usually into a special bank account, and you can buy the services and support as agreed in your support plan.
For example, you can use the money to employ your own staff (Personal Assistants), to arrange short breaks, and for small items of equipment.
Direct payments can be used flexibly as part of a combined package. This enables you to live independently and choose your own support.
What you can’t use direct payments for
You cannot use your direct payment to fund permanent residential care, for services that should be funded by another, securing services from a close relative who lives in the same household other than in exceptional circumstances, pay utility bills, or rent, or mortgage, to pay for food, alcohol, cigarettes or gambling or anything illegal.
Your direct payment shouldn’t be used for anything that’s has not agreed in your support plan. It is important that you keep records to account for the money that is being spent. Most Local Authorities will ask for evidence of how you’ve spent your money every 3 to 6 months.
Can anyone who is eligible receive Direct Payment?
You should note that there are some groups who are ineligible for Direct Payment, even if they meet the conditions outline in the Care and Support (Direct Payments) Regulations 2014. The Department of Health Care and Support Statutory Guidance says that “direct payments cannot be made to people subject to a court order for drug or alcohol treatment program or similar schemes”. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-statutory-guidance/care-and-support-statutory-guidance
Paying for your own care
It is also important to note that if you are receiving services from the Local Authority, you may have to pay for some, or all, of the support yourself, if you have assets over a certain amount.
Your Local Authority will do a financial assessment to determine how much, if anything, you should pay towards your support.
What support can I get to manage my Direct Payment?
Some Local Authority has an in-house Direct Payment Support Service, while other can sign post you to other organisation such as Mencap, Age UK or local services Communty Contact or GCIL in Scotland or Rowan in England. The Local Authority or other organisation has direct advisors who can arrange to visit you to support you with your direct payment. They can initially advise you on advertising for and recruiting staff, help you with interview questions, helping with Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) if in Scotland, supporting with job description, draw up contract, decide on separate bank account, arrange employers liability insurance (www.fishinsurance.co.uk) and payroll.
What are the hidden costs I need to consider?
It is important to be aware that you may have to pay recruitment cost, cost to set up pension scheme (autoenrolment), payroll service charge, employers liability insurance.
Your direct payments should be able to help towards the cost of these, but it will depend on your local authority.
What if Direct Payments are not for me?
You may decide that receiving your Personal Budget via a Direct Payment is not for you. This could be the case if you are worried about managing money or the people you employ or you would rather the Local Authority arrange your support.
When your Direct Payment starts, you can end it at at any time and the Local Authority can arrange your services for you instead. This means they will liaise with the care provider directly to pay for your support.
Just let your social worker or care management worker know it this is what you want to do and they will arrange a direct payment support officer to visit you and help you to close things down and make any necessary payments.
Remember Direct Payments should be offered as an option after your needs assessment. You or your carer can also ask the Local Authority Social Services Department about direct payments.