Personal budgets from your council

This page tells you what a personal budget is, how it works and what your rights are.

What a personal budget is

A personal budget is an agreed amount of money that is allocated to you by your local authority (and through other funding streams).

Before you can be allocated a personal budget, your local authority will meet with you to find out what care and support you need. This is called an assessment.

A personal budget allows you (or a person representing you) to control how you pay for your support and who provides it.

Ways you can receive and use your personal budget

There are three ways you can choose to receive and use your personal budget

Direct payment

This means some, or all, of your personal budget is paid directly to you.

It gives you more flexibility, choice and control over the services you use, and from whom you get them.

Your direct payment is normally paid into your bank account.

Individual Service Fund (ISF)

Your council gives your personal budget to a support provider, who uses the money to plan and meet your care and support needs.

Not every council offers an ISF, and you should check with your local council if you feel this would be a good option for you.

Council managed personal budget

Your council holds your personal budget for you and commissions services on your behalf.

You can choose to use a combination of these three payment methods to best meet your needs.

Your council and support provider should put you at the centre of all decisions, work with you to design your support plan and decide how the personal budget is spent.

What you can use your personal budget for

You can use personal budgets for different kinds of support if they meet your assessed needs or agreed outcomes.

In general, you will have more freedom to make your own choices if you 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.

You cannot use a social care personal budget to buy services that the NHS should provide.

What your rights are

The approach to personal budgets depends on where you live.


  • The Care Act 2014 means that – if you have eligible needs – your council should award you a personal budget. They should also offer the option to receive some or all the personal budget as a direct payment.
  • Councils use a system to decide on the amount of your personal budget.
  • Your council may decide that you need to make a contribution towards the cost of your support. They will do a financial assessment to decide if you must pay some or all of the cost.


  • Councils do not have a legal duty to provide a personal budget, but they must plan your care and support with a focus on your preferences and desired outcomes.

Northern Ireland

  • Each trust sets its own policy on awarding a personal budget.

This content was last reviewed in April 2022. We’ll review it again next year.