Personal budgets – including direct payments

This factsheet provides information relating to personal budgets for parents/carers of children and for young people with a Special Educational Need and/or a disability who have an Education, Health or Care plan or other care plan (including those currently with a Statement of Special Educational Needs).

What is an Education, Health and Care Plan?

An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC plan) will replace the existing Statement of Special Educational Needs by bringing together your child’s education, health and social care needs into a single document. Following assessment, if your child is identified as requiring an EHC plan, the council will work with you to develop a plan to ensure you are fully engaged in the process. Find out more about EHC plans.

What is a personal budget?

A personal budget is an amount of money available to support your child’s education, health and care needs as specified in their EHC plan.

Your child’s lead professional (in health, social care or education) will discuss what services from the ones available will best meet the outcomes your child needs. Some examples of outcomes are that a service will assist with improving a child’s confidence, develop independence skills or improve their health or wellbeing. The lead professional will also discuss with you what funding will be required to pay for this services, and how the funding will be managed. This is known as a ‘personal budget.’

A personal budget is the amount of money identified to fund services that can either be directly provided or funded through a direct payment. The personal budget can be managed in the following ways:

  • A direct payment - this is a cash amount that you can use to purchase your own services. You may already receive a direct payment for Social Care or Continuing Health Care services and these might be included in the plan if they meet identified outcomes. For example if your child receives personal care funded through a direct payment this will support them with attending school so might assist with meeting an outcome relating to education. The assessment process for the direct payment will remain the same. The lead professional, such as child’s social worker or health care professional, will undertake the assessment depending on the nature of the service to be funded.
  • A notional budget - this means that you or your lead professional(s) can request that the money is used by the council or NHS who will arrange services on your behalf.
  • Third party arrangement – this is an arrangement whereby you or a nominated individual can arrange for somebody else (a ‘third party’) to organize the support needs identified in the Education Health and Care plan on your behalf.

Or, you can request a combination of the above.

How will I benefit from a personal budget?

A personal budget will give you more choice and control of the services your child receives to support their care needs. As you know your children best you will be asked to take part in the planning process to help identify the outcomes the plan should deliver for your child and the services best placed to meet those outcomes.

Can I have a personal budget for social care and support as well as personal health budget?

Yes. If you already have a personal budget for care and support from social services and your NHS team agrees, you can also have a personal health budget and ask for both to be combined and these could be included in the EHC plan.

What are the eligibility criteria for accessing a direct payment?

If your child has an agreed education, health and care plan or other support plan, you can request a direct payment for some services that will assist with delivering the outcomes set out in that plan. The services that are currently available for funding in this way are set out below. In addition to this you will also need to demonstrate, with the help of your lead professional, that you are able to manage a direct payment.

Will I require a separate assessment to access a direct payment?

Yes. When you take the decision to request a direct payment an assessment will be undertaken at which you will be asked to work with your lead professional(s) to discuss the services you would like to fund and the outcomes these will contribute towards delivering for your child.

You will also be asked to help identify any risks you feel could arise from funding your child’s services directly through a direct payment and discuss how you think these could be managed to ensure that decisions are made that ensure the safety of you and your child. For example, you will need to ensure that any person you employ to deliver a service to your child has the appropriate safeguarding checks or that the service is being delivered by a reputable organisation.

You will need to demonstrate that the services you identify with the help of your lead professional will meet the outcomes detailed within your child’s care plan and that you have the capacity to manage a personal budget.

What services am I allowed to buy with a direct payment?

Currently families with a direct payment are able to use this funding to purchase personal care and short break services for their children. You can choose to directly fund services with local providers such as a personal care provider or one of our short break providers. However, direct payments are often used in different ways as long as it can be demonstrated that services help with meeting the outcomes identified in your child’s care plan. These might include:

  • joining a football scheme
  • employing a personal carer directly
  • a visit to the cinema
  • visiting landmarks.

Personal care and short breaks will remain the only services that can be funded through a direct payment along with continuing health care. However, in future there may be other services that you can request that can be funded through a direct payment and this guidance will be updated once these services are identified.

How is the amount of personal budget decided?

The amount allocated is decided depending on the service or activity families wish to fund but must be sufficient to fund the preferred option at the same time as providing value for money for the council. Currently, funding is allocated at the same rate as a personal care service or short break service would cost if delivered by a council funded service.

Will I receive help with managing my direct payment?

If you choose a direct payment you will receive support through our Direct Payment Support Service. Amongst, other things they will help you with all matters relating to your budget including, directly employing an individual to support your child, help with understanding safeguarding risks and help with providing evidence relating to how you have used the funding. Additionally, you can discuss with your lead professional any additional help you might need.

Will my direct payment be monitored?

Yes, the council and NHS have a responsibility to ensure their budgets are used for the specific purpose they are intended. The direct payment will be monitored on an ongoing basis by direct payment administrators to ensure they are being used responsibly and the services.

Your child’s lead professional will also monitor how well services funded through a direct payment meet the agreed outcomes as part of the care plan review process or earlier if issues have been raised by direct payment administrators.

Can I appeal if I am refused a direct payment?

The legislation relating to direct payments to support Education, Health and Care Plans enables families to request a direct payment. This does not mean you will automatically receive a direct payment. There are certain restrictions in the use of a direct payment. For example they can only be used to fund services that directly contribute to the delivery of agreed outcomes.

Also, not all services will be available to fund through a direct payment as stated above. You will also have to demonstrate that you have the capacity to manage a direct payment. You will however be informed of the reasons for any refusal and will be able to appeal should you be unhappy with that decision. You can speak to your lead professional about how you can do this.