Personal budgets for social care

Direct payments for social care needs

A direct payment is money that is given to you and your family by a public body (like the local authority) as an alternative to a service. You can then use this money to buy support for your child – for example, by employing a personal assistant. This can give you and your family more choice, flexibility and control over your support.

Direct payments are not means-tested, and they do not affect your benefits.

This page is about direct payments to support children’s social care needs.

Direct payments can be made to parents or other carers with parental responsibility for a disabled child or young person. Young people aged 16 years or over can receive a direct payment in their own right. (An assessment would need to be carried out to ensure the young person had the capacity to manage the direct payment.)

To be eligible for direct payments, the child or young person must be eligible for support from children’s social care.

If the local authority agrees that your child is eligible for support, you and your family have the right to receive some or all of this support through a direct payment. However, the local authority cannot insist that a family has a direct payment – it is your choice.

Please note: You cannot receive a short break service (including direct payments) AND the Short Break Grant for the same child. If your child is eligible for both, you will have to make a choice. More information about the Short Break Grant.

If you are NOT currently accessing support from children’s social care, you need to ask the local authority to carry out an assessment of need. To do this, ring the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub on 0114 2734855 and say that you have a child with a disability and would like to request an assessment. During the screening process it will be decided what type of assessment is needed:

  • Social Care Single Assessment will be undertaken by a social worker if there are safeguarding or welfare concerns, or if the support required is for overnight respite or a direct payment for more than 20 hours per week. The local authority must normally complete this assessment within 45 working days. This assessment falls under the Children Act 1989.
  • An Early Help and Wellbeing Assessment will be carried out by an Inclusion Officer if the support required is for SNIPS provision and/or a direct payment for less than 20 hours per week. The local authority must complete this assessment within 35 working days. This assessment falls under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

The outcome of the assessment will be presented to the Early Help Panel. The panel then decides whether your child is eligible for support from children’s social care.

  • If the panel agrees that your child is eligible for support, you have the right to receive some or all of this support through a direct payment.
  • If the panel doesn’t agree that your child needs support, you will not be able to get direct payments. If you disagree with the panel’s decision, you can challenge it via the local authority’s complaints procedure.

If your child ALREADY receives support from children’s social care, you should discuss your request for direct payments with the relevant service:

  • If you have a social worker, discuss the possibility of direct payments with them in the first instance. They can complete an updated assessment and present this to the Early Help Panel.
  • If you have a MAST worker, discuss the possibility of direct payments with them. MAST workers can discuss this request with SNIPS and an Early Help assessment can be completed and presented to the Early Help Panel.
  • If your child is accessing SNIPS and you feel that the building-based provision is no longer meeting their social needs, please contact the team on 0114 273 5368 to discuss other options. If the decision is to look into a direct payment, you will need to request an assessment via one of the options outlined above.

If your request for direct payments is refused

If the local authority decides not to make direct payments, it must inform you and your family, explaining the reasons for the decision and telling you how you can request a review of the decision.

If your request for direct payments is agreed, the Direct Payment Support Officer will support the allocated worker (i.e. the MAST intervention worker, SNIPS inclusion Officer or Social Worker who completed the assessment and made the request to panel) and your family through the process of setting up a direct payment and completing a comprehensive direct payment plan. The direct payment plan will inform you of the support needs that are being addressed, the anticipated outcomes and the agreed hours and terms of the agreement. In some cases the Direct Payment Support Officer will carry out a home visit to support and advise you. The local authority aims to set up the direct payment within three months.

Please note: You will need to open a separate bank or building society account to keep track of how your direct payments have been spent. You will also need to keep receipts for anything you use the direct payments for.

The amount of your direct payments should be enough to cover the costs of buying a service of the same quality and quantity as the local authority would otherwise have provided.

The number of hours of direct payments you receive depends on your assessment of need. This varies from family to family.

If you want to use the direct payment to employ a PA (see below), the local authority uses a standard pay rate of the national living wage per hour when calculating direct payments. However, if your child has complex needs, your direct payments should cover the cost of purchasing appropriate care for them, even if this is above the standard rate. This will be presented to the Early Help Panel by the assessor as part of the direct payment request. The direct payment will include additional costs like employer’s national insurance contributions, employer’s liability insurance, payroll fees, holiday pay, sick pay and cover, and DBS checks. However, your PA’s expenses, food, activity costs and mileage are NOT included, and you will need to cover these costs yourself.

Training costs are not included but support will be offered to find training and possible funding if required. Should a PA require training to provide specialist support, the assessor and family will discuss this with the Children with Disabilities Team management team and these requests will be looked at on an individual basis.

Direct payments for an activity may be requested in cases where there is an agreement for a social care provision and the SNIPS team have not been able to source an appropriate activity. This will need to be requested via an assessment and application to the Early Help Panel. Your SNIPS Mentor will be able to give you information about this.

Most families who receive direct payments use them to employ a Personal Assistant (PA). A PA can take your child out into the community, e.g. to access a club or an activity, or look after them in your home.

However, a PA is not the only option. Other things you could spend your direct payment on include:

  • equipment and temporary adaptations (it is expected that families/professionals approach charities and other council teams before making a request and these will be looked at on a case by case basis)
  • an approved agency to provide direct care to meet your child’s/family’s needs
  • residential overnight breaks for your disabled child
  • a childminder or child home carer
  • a place at an after-school club or holiday playscheme for your disabled child
  • contracting someone who is self employed
  • any service which meets your assessed needs for a short break

You and your family will need to discuss your plans with the allocated worker during the assessment process. The Direct Payment Support Officer can be contacted for advice about how direct payments can be used.

Direct Payment Support Officer will draw up a contractual agreement (called an F8) setting out what care needs will be met by the direct payment, how the services will be provided and how they will be monitored.

You can only use the direct payments to meet your child’s assessed needs. In addition, you cannot use direct payments to:

  • employ a close relative who is part of your household (although there are exceptions to this rule);
  • employ someone without a DBS check or references, or someone subject to a drug or alcohol treatment requirement, youth rehabilitation order or released on licence;
  • buy services from the local authority;
  • fund permanent residential accommodation;
  • fund permanent adaptations to your home.

If you decide to employ a PA, you will be responsible for recruiting and managing them. This means that you will have all the responsibilities of that person’s employer. For example, you will have to:

-          provide a job description and contract of employment;

-          have employer’s liability insurance;

-          make payments into the PA’s pension;

-          keep timesheets and send these to your payroll provider.

The Direct Payment Support Officer can help you with these things. More information can be found in the Direct Payments handbook that is provided once you have a direct payment agreed.