A quick guide to Direct Payments
If you are a carer, or get support services through your local authority, you may have already heard of direct payments.
Direct payments from social services allow you, or the person you're looking after, to buy your own care services.
Direct payments aim to give you more say in how your services are provided. Giving the money to you, rather than social care services, gives you more choice and control over your life, letting you make your own decisions about how your care is delivered.
How do I get direct payments?
Before direct payments can be awarded social services must carry out an assessment. This could be:
- a community care assessment for the person you're looking after
- an assessment for a child under the Children Act or
- your own carers assessment
If the assessment shows that support services should be provided, you or the person you're caring for can ask for direct payments rather than having social services arrange the service for you.
Even if you're already getting support from social services, you can ask for direct payments instead.
How do direct payments work?
It’s probably easiest to explain by using an example. After a community care assessment it is decided that ‘John’ needs the help of a care worker for several hours a week. John has two options: either he can let his local authority arrange for him to have a care worker they select for him; or he can ask for direct payments so that he can employ the care worker of his own choice.
What if I don’t want direct payments?
Social services will usually offer you, or the person you care for, the option of direct payments. If a person can’t manage their own direct payments, someone else can do it for them.
Choosing direct payments is totally up to you. This means that you, and/or the person you're looking after, can’t be forced to take direct payments. If you do choose direct payments, you are allowed to change your mind at any time. Should you decide you don’t want direct payments any more, get in touch with your local social services and ask them to arrange services instead.
Not sure whether direct payments are your best option? You can test the waters by asking social services for a direct payment for some of your support while continuing to get your other support directly from social services.
I’ve arranged to get direct payments, what now?
Direct payments do come with some obligations. Such as:
- Keeping records of how the money is spent. Social services may want to see these records.
- If you're using the direct payments to pay for a care worker, you are taking on the legal role of an employer and all the responsibilities that go with it. Some local organisations may be able to help you manage the administration and other tasks.
You should be able to get support with managing direct payments if you need it, ask your local social services and they will advise you.
Direct payments must only be spent on things that will meet the assessed needs of the person getting them. If you spend your direct payments on something that doesn’t meet your needs, social services can claim the money back from you.
Anyone who gets social services support should have their needs reassessed at least once a year. You can contact social services for a reassessment if your needs change.
Social services can charge for some services. So, if you get direct payments, you might have to make a financial contribution towards the direct payment. Your local social services should tell you if this is the case, and how much you will need to pay. Their charges must be fair, and they have to follow strict rules.
For more information on direct payments contact your local authority.