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Disabled people

Direct payments - arranging your own care and services

Direct payments are local council payments for people who have been assessed as needing help from social services, and who would like to arrange and pay for their own care and support services instead of receiving them directly from the local council.

A person must be able to give their consent to receiving direct payments and be able to manage them even if they need help to do this on a day-to-day basis.

Who is eligible?

If you already receive social services

Your local council is obliged to offer you the option of direct payments in place of the services you currently receive. (There are some limited circumstances where you are not given this choice and your council will be able to tell you about these.)

If you’re not receiving social services

To get direct payments you’ll need to contact your local council to ask them to assess your needs. Social services (and therefore direct payments) are normally available if you are:

  • disabled and aged 16 or over
  • a parent or carer aged 16 or over (including people with parental responsibility for a disabled child)
  • an older person

If you’ve been refused social services

If your local council has decided that you do not need social care services, it will not offer you direct payments. If you think your needs or circumstances have now changed, ask your local council for a new assessment.

How much do you get?

The amount you receive will depend on the assessment your local council makes of your needs.

How it’s paid

Direct payments are made directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings account.

If you need someone who cares for you to collect your money, or you are registered blind, payment can be made by sending a cheque which can be cashed at the Post Office.

How to apply for direct payments locally

If you already get services, ask your local authority about direct payments.

If you are applying for services for the first time, your social worker should discuss the direct payments option with you when they assess your care needs.

The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more and/or apply online.

What you can use direct payments for

The money is for you to use to arrange the services (including equipment) which will meet the needs the local council has assessed you as having.

As a general principle, councils should aim to leave you to choose how best to meet your assessed needs as long as they are satisfied that agreed support and/or arrangements made, are being met.

What you can’t use direct payments for

You cannot use direct payments to:

  • pay for permanent residential accommodation (but you may be able to use direct payments to secure occasional short periods in residential accommodation, if your local council agrees that is what is needed)
  • secure a service from your spouse or civil partner, close relatives or anyone who lives in the same household as you, unless that person is someone who you have specifically recruited to be a live-in employee (other than in exceptional circumstances, which your council may agree with you)

Record keeping

If you receive direct payments, you’ll need to account for the money you spend. Your local council will tell you what records you need to keep and what information you’ll be expected to provide: such as timesheets signed by personal assistants, or receipts for services from agencies.

The council will have to satisfy itself that the needs for which it is giving you direct payments are being met. They should tell you how they will go about this. This may involve a visit to your home.

Carers and direct payments

If you are a parent or carer aged 16 or over (including people with parental responsibility for a disabled child) you may be eligible for direct payments.

However, you cannot use direct payments to buy services for the person you care for. They can only be spent on getting the support you, as a carer, have been assessed as needing. 

Effect on other benefits

Direct payments are not a replacement of income and therefore do not affect any other benefits you may be receiving.

What to do if your circumstances change

If your social services needs change

If your needs change (for better or for worse, or in the long- or short-term) contact your local council as soon as possible so that they can reassess the level of payments you require.

For example, if you don’t need to spend the full amount because your condition improves temporarily, or you go into hospital, they may need to adjust your payments.

If you don’t want to continue with direct payments

If you decide you don’t want to continue then the local council will arrange services instead. If the council decides you cannot manage with direct payments, it might decide to stop making direct payments and provide services instead.

More about direct payments

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