Everything you need to know about your personal budget…
Personal Budgets are typically the main source of funding you will use to pay for your Personal Assistant (or any support services). It was set up as part of the Care Act, which aimed to bring about the personalisation of care services. The intent is to put you at the center of the process by offering personal budgets, providing information services and setting up independent advocacy services.
Before we jump into Personal Budgets, let’s backtrack for a moment by understanding a bit more about the Care Act.
Care Act, an introduction
The Care Act 2014 in England states that the Local Authorities must carry out an assessment of anyone who appears to require care and support, regardless of their eligibility for Local Authority funded care. It also gives the right to disabled and older people (including their carers) who are eligible for Local Authority funding service a right to a personal budget (sometimes call ‘self-directed support’).
The focus is on promoting wellbeing, lifestyle and prevention. There are separate laws about social care in Wales, which came into force in early April 2016; Scotland – The Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013; Northern Ireland – Self Directed Support (personal budgets) are being rolled out across Northern Ireland for Adults.
As a point of reference, when I use the term Local Authority this covers social services departments and Health and Social Care Trusts (Northern Ireland).
The old system
Under the old support system, social services and other professionals assessed you, and then told you what services they would provide. The Care Act, regardless of the slight difference versions applicable to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, gives you the opportunity to say what you want of life and devise a support plan that bests supports your ambitions.
Therefore, if you are receiving Local Authority funding services, you have a right to a personal budget and direct payment options that offers you choice and control. The emphasis should always be placed on your wellbeing and the lifestyle you want to lead.
Just a side note – your carer, may also be entitled to receive a personal budget after having a carer’s assessment to see what might help to make their life easier. A carer’s assessment is free to anyone over 18 years old.
What is a personal budget?
Your personal budget is the amount of money your Local Authority will pay towards any social care and support you need once they assess you as needing social care services. Having a personal budget should means you are much what money you have available to spend on care and support. This gives you choice and control of the support you need to live your life as you choose. This allows you to decide on other ways of spending the money so you can make the support more effective for you to fit around your lifestyle and personal circumstances.
What are the advantages of having a personal budget?
In principle, having a personal budget should provide you with more choice over your care or support needs are met.
- You can have a say in what is important to you and what you want to achieve, such as helping with your personal care, joining a local club or support to access paid employment or voluntary work
- How much money is available to buy the support you need to meet these outcomes
- Have more involvement in creating your Care and Support Plan for how your needs will be met
- Have a choice over how your funding support money will is held and managed, including the right to ask for direct payment. This means you can spend the money in ways and times that suits you as long as the agreed outcomes are met.
How do I get a personal budget?
To obtain a personal budget, you will need to request an assessment from the Local Authority to establish your needs. They call this a needs assessment and the amount of money in your personal budget is decided by the Local Authority after they complete this assessment. The need assessment work out:
- what kind of care and support you need
- how much it will cost
- how much you’re able to afford yourself
How do I get a Needs Assessment?
To get a needs assessment you will need to contact your local authority and ask for a need assessment. You can call them or do it online.
Your needs assessment may involve a Social Worker or an Occupational Therapist visiting you at home and asking questions about how you are currently managing and what support you currently have. This gives you the opportunity to discuss things such what things you are finding difficult to manage, what’s important to you, what you would like to achieve in your life and how you are going to achieve those goals.
They will write all the information they gather in a document, which you may hear them refer to it as an assessment document or form. They will give you a copy of this and you should read it and make any appropriate changes if you feel it did not capture your situation correctly or is not an accurate reflection of the answers you gave.
After your assessment, they will tell you if you are eligible for services and if so what your Personal Budget is. Your local authority will also do a financial assessment to determine how much, if anything, you should pay for your support. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/care/paying-for-care/financial-assessment/ or https://www.sense.org.uk/get-support/information-and-advice/paying-for-your-support/ . This is referred to as a contribution or a local authority charge towards your support. If you feel the charges are unreasonable or it is not possible for you to pay your contribution. You may be able to challenge the amount through your Local Authority complaint process if you feel it hasn’t been worked out correctly.
How much money do I get?
The amount you get depends on your assessment and the support you need. There is no fixed amount you will receive as this is personal to you depending on your needs and circumstances. Once you know your indicative budget, you can consider ways you can spend your personal budget to make the support most effective to you.
What is the difference between an indicative budget and a personal budget?
An indicative budget is the amount calculated immediately following your assessment, estimating based on the information provided and how much it may cost to meet the eligible needs identified during your assessment. They should share it with you or your carer (and anyone else involved in your Care and Support/Support Plan) at the start of the planning process to support you to;
- Develop your Care and Support/Support Plan; and
- Make appropriate choices about how your eligible needs can be met.
The personal budget is confirmed through refinement of the indicative budget during the Care and Support/Support planning process. It represents the final amount the Local Authority agrees to meet your eligible needs and may be greater or less than the original indicative budget calculated. https://www.proceduresonline.com/resources/careact/p_pers_budget.html
What is a Support Plan?
Your Social Worker/Occupational Therapist or an Independent Support Planner will work with you (a family member can also help) to look at how to spend your Personal Budget and what goals or outcomes you would like to achieve. For example, what is important to you – may wish to become more mobile, or to go out and socialise more. Whatever goals you decide on, they will write them in a document known as a Care and Support Plan. Your support plan will also identify:
- What you want to change
- How you will arrange your support
- How you will spend your money
- How you will manage your support
- How you will stay in control
- How you are going to make things happen.
Once your Care and Support plan is completed, they will give you a copy for your records. When your care is reviewed in 3 to 6 month time, they will use your Care and Support Plan as a starting point to check your support needs are being adequately catered to. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/help-from-social-services-and-charities/getting-a-needs-assessment/
What if I don’t agree with the indicative amount?
If you don’t believe more money is required to meet your support needs than the indicative budget suggests, you will need to discuss this with your social worker or care coordinator. Than can be looked at on a case by case basis to ensure your final personal budget is in line with your eligible care/support needs.
Can I choose how to receive my personal budget?
You can ask the council to either:
- manage your personal budget for you
- pay the money to another organisation – such as a care agency
- pay the money directly to you or someone you choose – this is known as a Direct Payment
You can also choose a combination of these options. For example, the Local Authority could arrange some of your care but send you the rest of the money. This is often called a mixed package or “mix and match”.
What if the Local Authority manages my money?
The money in your personal budget will be spent for you by the council. They will arrange all your care and support based on your agreed care plan.
They still need to check you’re happy with the care they’re arranging for you.
What if they directly pay my money to another organisation?
The organisation you choose, such as your care provider, will speak to the council and arrange the payments.
Sometimes other organisations charge you extra money to arrange payments from the council.
What can my Personal Budget be used for?
Your personal budget can be used for the services, including equipment which has been identified to meet your support needs. This may include personal care, shopping, meal preparation, cleaning, short breaks to give your carer a break from caring role, and social and recreational activities.
Is there anything I cannot use my personal budget for?
You cannot use your personal budget to fund the following:
- things that are not directly related to your care and support
- employing immediate family members who live in the same house as you
- anything that is provided free by another service, such as the NHS
- residential or nursing care (excluding respite care for up to four consecutive weeks in any 12 month period)
- health needs
- gambling, alcohol and tobacco
- anything illegal (including paying people ‘cash in hand’)
- paying debts, ordinary household bills, food, and rent or mortgage
- services normally funded through other benefits or schemes (such as support into employment)
- anything that places you at risk
- things that do not represent value for money (such as when there is a valid cheaper alternative)
Do I need to contribute towards the cost of my care?
Sometimes the Local Authority requires you to contribute towards the cost of your care. However, these charges will be means-tested and the Local Authority will assess your income once they have decided which services to offer you. This is to ensure that your ability to pay does not influence their decisions about what you need.
If you feel the charges are too much or you cannot afford to pay them, you should find out how the charges are worked out. When being financially assessed, you should make clear any disability related expenditure you have.
Remember you can challenge the amount through your Local Authority complaints process if you feel your charges hasn’t been worked out correctly.
What if my circumstances change?
If your circumstances change, you will need to notify your Local Authority as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a review. You may need a reassessment of your needs. If appropriate, the Local Authority may reclaim any unused payments.
Remember, everyone has a right to an assessment and under the old system you were assessed and told what services the Local Authority would be providing. With personal budget, you have more choice, control and you are able to say what you want out of your life and what support is best for you.