Personal budgets

After an assessment, if you have eligible needs you will have a personal budget which says how much it will cost to meet those needs. You may have to pay some or all of the costs of your support yourself and the personal budget will set this out. The details of how your personal budget is to be used will be set out in the care and support plan.

What is a personal budget?

A personal budget is a ‘virtual budget’, or amount of money allocated to meet your assessed needs. Individuals can decide to use their personal budget in different ways, these are:

  • A personal budget managed by the council
  • A personal budget managed by a third party
  • A personal budget received as a direct payment
  • A combination of these options

What can you use a personal budget for?

You should be able to use personal budgets for different kinds of support. The key point is that you must spend the budget in a way that goes towards meeting your assessed needs or agreed outcomes. Generally speaking, people could have more freedom when they have a personal budget. You should be able to use the budget to buy support and/or equipment in the way that you think is most appropriate.

What shouldn’t you use a personal budget for?

You cannot use a social care personal budget to buy services which the NHS should provide. If you decide to receive your personal budget as a direct payment there are certain things you cannot use a direct payment for. See Direct payments: an introduction in this section.

Your rights

Councils will use a system to decide on the amount of your personal budget. One common method that councils use to decide this is a resource allocation system (RAS) questionnaire. However, any system must take account of deafblind people who require specialist support and your personal budget must be enough to meet assessed needs. If after care planning the budget is not enough to properly meet your eligible needs then the budget should be increased.

Case studies: four examples of different ways that personal budgets can be

1. A personal budget managed by the council

Rishma has a personal budget to pay for a communicator guide. Rishma does not want the bother of managing the budget herself so she asks the council to buy the service for her. Anyone who wants the council to manage their budget is allowed to do this. You cannot be made to take a direct payment.

2. A personal budget managed by a third party

Holly wants the local centre for independent living to manage her personal budget. Her council contracts to hand over the budget to a local organisation. It is then up to Holly and the organisation to organise the day-to-day arrangements.

3. A personal budget received as a direct payment

John wants to receive his personal budget as a direct payment. This means he takes on responsibility for managing the budget, though he is entitled to support in doing this. He has to open a separate bank account to receive the direct payment. If you want a direct payment you should be allowed this unless there are good reasons not to. For more information on direct payments see the direct payments pages.

4. Taking a personal budget as a combination of services provided by the council and a direct payment

Daniel has a personal budget to meet his needs for communication and mobility. He decides that he wishes to use most of the budget for communicator guides and he would like the council to organise this. But he also wants some specialist equipment and asks to have part of the budget as a direct payment so that he can purchase the equipment himself.

First published: Thursday 2 August 2012
Updated: Tuesday 31 March 2015