Direct payments

This page tells you what a direct payment is, how you get one and what you can use it for.

What’s on this page

What a direct payment is

A direct payment is one of the ways you can receive a social care personal budget from your council to help you pay for the care and support you need.

Choosing to have your personal budget as a direct payment gives you more control over the services you use and where you get them from.

You can choose to receive all, or part, of your personal budget as a direct payment so that you can buy services or pay someone to support you.

You can spend your direct payment on any services as long as they are legal, keep you safe and healthy, and meet your eligible needs.

Your council will pay your direct payment into your bank or building society account.

Direct payments do not count as income and will not affect your benefits.

How you get a direct payment

You can get a direct payment if:

  • You have eligible social care needs.
  • You can make decisions for yourself.
  • You ask for a direct payment.
  • You can manage a direct payment alone or with help.
  • It will help to meet your eligible needs.

Your council has a legal responsibility to offer you the option of a direct payment.

If you cannot make decisions, you can still get direct payments if a family member, carer or friend is willing to manage your direct payment for you.

You may have to pay for some of your care and support depending on your financial circumstances. A financial assessment will be completed to decide this.

What you can use your direct payment for

You can use a direct payment to pay for services, equipment, or activities that meet your social care needs. You can buy these from organisations or individuals.

Examples of things you can buy with your direct payment:

  • Care and support to help you live in your own home.
  • Employing a personal assistant to help you do different activities.
  • Transport costs to meet eligible needs.
  • Support in college or in a job.
  • Travel training.
  • Short breaks and leisure activities.

You can also use direct payments to pay a close relative to meet your eligible needs as long as they do not live with you.

Your council should help you to use direct payments to arrange your own care. If you are having problems using your direct payments, contact your local council. If you’re not happy with the support you receive, you may wish to complain. Your local council will have a complaints procedure you can use.

Examples of things you cannot buy with your direct payment:

  • Health services, including treatment from the NHS.
  • Household bills, for example gas or electricity bills.
  • Gambling or anything illegal.
  • Permanent accommodation or long-term care in a care home (while this was included in the Care Act 2014, allowing people to use their direct payments in this way has been postponed until 2020).

Employing your own support staff

Like many people, you may decide to use your direct payment to directly employ personal support staff.

If you choose to do this, your council should ensure the direct payment covers the full costs of directly employing support staff. This includes maintaining Tax and National Insurance records, DBS checks, holiday pay and training costs.

If you pay for someone, like a personal assistant, you become their employer. Contact your council for information about becoming an employer.

Using a support provider

Another option is to choose a support provider, like Sense, to take on all the employment duties and responsibilities and include this in the amount it charges.

Your chosen support provider should work alongside you, and, if appropriate, your family, to make sure that you play a full part in the recruitment and supervision of staff and identifying training needs.

What the benefits of a direct payment are

A direct payment can help you to live more independently.

It gives you more flexibility, control and choice than if your support is arranged for you by your council.

Choosing a combination of payments

It is your choice if you want to have a direct payment, and you may be unsure whether you want to or can manage it.

In these cases, the council can provide you with a combination of payments.

A combination of payments may consist of a smaller direct payment, with some care and support arranged by your council or a provider. This allows you to try out direct payments before deciding whether to move to a ‘full’ direct payment.

What if your direct payment is not enough to meet your needs

Your council should review your situation within six months. This is to make sure you have enough money to buy services and manage your direct payment.

After that, your care and support plan should be reviewed at least once a year.

If you feel you are not getting enough money through your direct payment, tell your council. They may be able to help.

If not, you can get help from an advocate who can act as your spokesperson and make sure you are heard.

Sense does not provide an advocacy service, but our Information and Advice Service can signpost you to a local advocacy service or a Direct Payments Support Service commissioned by your local authority.