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Personal Budgets and Direct Payments (Adults)

older lady paying online

There are some temporary changes to how adult social care services are paid for during the COVID-19 pandemic.  You can see the details on our Adults COVID-19 page

This guidance is for people who have already had a social care assessment and a financial assessment and are eligible for council funded care and support. 

For more information about financial assessment and paying for care, please visit the Paying for your care at home page. 


Personal Budgets

Picture of money

Personal budgets

A personal budget is an amount of council funding made available to meet your social care and support needs, following a care and support assessment.  

Your care and support plan is used to calculate a weekly amount of money to be used towards meeting the cost of your care.

Your personal budget may be used to:  

  • arrange a care agency to provide you with care and support at home with things like getting dressed, preparing a meal, washing and toileting  

  • arrange day activities

  • arrange and pay for respite care - to give you and your carers a short break  

  • pay for any support you may need when your carer takes a break.

You can choose how to spend your personal budget, provided that it meets your eligible social care needs and helps to meet the outcomes agreed and outlined in your care and support plan.  You can choose to take your personal budget as a Direct Payment.

Direct Payments

Direct Payments logo

What is a Direct Payment?

If you are assessed as being eligible for some council funding toward the cost of your care, you can choose to take this funding as cash payment.  This is called a Direct Payment. 

Am I eligible?

Direct Payments are available to people who qualify for support from us and who are either:

We will carry out an assessment, then find out what you want to achieve. We will then look woith you at the ways your needs could be best supported. This will be written down in a document called a support plan.   We will allocate you a level of budget that is calculated be enough to meet your level of needs, this is referred to as a Personal Budget.  Your Personal Budget will be made up of the amount we financially assess you as being able to cover yourself plus any contribution the council might make.  You can take some, or all of your council contribution to your personal budget as a Direct Payment to organise services yourself. If you are unable to do this you can ask us to arrange services for you.

How do you work out my personal budget?

We will ask you to complete a financial assessment. We will work out the likely cost of your assessed needs and how much we can provide towards it. This is called a personal budget.

How can I use Direct Payments?

You must use Direct Payments to meet the needs and things you want to achieve written down in your support plan.  You must spend your Direct Payments lawfully and in a cost-effective way.

Direct Payments cannot be used for: 

  • anything not agreed in your support plan
  • paying a family member or partner living at the same address
  • purchasing any local authority in-house services, including transport
  • purchasing equipment or services provided by health services
  • purchasing any housing service or residential care

The law allows the council to ask you to repay Direct Payments if they have been used for any of the five items above.

Who can advise and support me?

In Peterborough, Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS) is contracted by the council to provide a Direct Payments support service.  In Cambridgeshire this is People Plus Group.

They will meet with you and provide a free Direct Payments information and advice visit and can help you with:

  • financial management and record keeping.
  • effective use of banking facilities.
  • financial monitoring requirements.
  • help with the legal and practical issues of hiring a Personal Assistant.
  • advice in setting up emergency procedures and back-up cover.

PCVS/People Plus Group can also assist you with recruitment and employment issues.

Supported accounts

You can arrange to have your Direct Payments paid into a Third Party Supported Account managed by PCVS/People Plus Group on your behalf. This means PCVS/People Plus Group carries out financial transactions on your instructions, pays wages directly into your care or support workers’ bank accounts and provides you with a monthly statement of your account. There is an administration charge for payroll services and Third Party Supported Accounts. If you have been assessed as needing support to manage your Direct Payments account the charge can be paid from your Direct Payments money.

Using Direct Payments to employ personal assistants

Some people use Direct Payments to pay their own staff (personal assistants) to provide care and support. We highly recommend you seek independent advice on how to use your Direct Payments. PCVS, PeoplePlus or another Direct Payments Support Service will be able to assist you with arranging a personal assistant and any issues related with this.

They can help you with parts of your support plan such as:

  • personal care (e.g. washing and dressing)
  • household tasks
  • activities outside the home, such as taking you to appointments and community events.

If you wish to employ your own care or support worker, PCVS/People Plus Group can assist you with recruitment and all employment issues.

If you choose to manage this yourself, it is your responsibility to be aware of, and adhere to current employment laws and register with HMRC as an employer.

If you fail to meet your obligations as an employer, your Direct Payments may be ended. Some people prefer to use private care agencies as this provides some control without the added responsibilities of employing staff. You must be certain that the amount of Direct Payments you receive covers agency fees or be willing to make up the difference yourself.

We do not encourage using Direct Payments to pay self-employed carers but many people recommend the flexibility and continuity that being an employer can bring, when supported by the relevant Direct Payment Support Service:

In Peterborough:

Telephone: 01733 342683 or 01733 311016

In Cambridgeshire:

People Plus Group
Telephone: 0330 123 2815

Using Direct Payments to buy support from companies 

Independent providers are companies that provide services such as home care, respite care or day care.

This option means that you get to choose which company will provide you with care and support, rather than us choosing the company for you. You can also have more control over when your care is provided.

If you use your Direct Payments to pay a provider, we will always want to be sure that you are using a provider who offers a good standard of care and is registered with the Care Quality Commission. Your Key Worker can tell you about the range of providers in your area or you can find care services on NHS Choices.

Direct Payments for equipment

Your assessment may show that you need a further assessment by an Occupational Therapist to identify what sort of equipment will help you live more independently. Direct Payments for this equipment is a separate one-off payment.

Planning for emergencies

If you receive Direct Payments, it is vital that you make arrangements to meet any emergencies; for example, if one of your personal assistants/support workers can't work.

Your Key Worker will discuss your emergency arrangements before your Direct Payments are agreed and can give you a list of agencies who can help you in an emergency.

If your emergency plans break down, the council is responsible for arranging services for you to cover the emergency. You should contact your Key Worker or Adult Early Help.

How do I apply for Direct Payments?

If you would like to try Direct Payments, you should talk it over with your Key Worker and with PCVS/People Plus Group.

Authorised person to consent and manage Direct Payments

People who lack the mental capacity to express their wishes or preferences about the support they receive, can arrange for their personal budget to be paid to a suitable authorised person. This is a trusted person who will make decisions about how Direct Payments are best used. This can be especially useful for people with severe learning disabilities, head injuries or dementia.

Other options allow individuals to nominate an authorised person to manage payments on their behalf, or to request that the local authority continues to manage the money in accordance with the support plan.

We must be sure that it would be in their best interests to have Direct Payments and that the authorised person will act properly.

Exclusions for Direct Payments

Some people are excluded from receiving Direct Payments by legislation. This includes people who are subject to compulsory measures of care under mental health and criminal justice legislation.

Setting up your Direct Payments

You will be required to sign an agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of Direct Payments.

You will need a separate bank account specifically for your Direct Payments.  This is so that you can easily show how the money is being used and that it is in line with your agreed support plan.

Your Key Worker can explain your agreement to you to make sure that you understand it before you sign it and explain more about setting up a bank account or you can use our contracted Direct Payments support service, PCVS/People Plus Group.

Receiving Direct Payments - prepaid card

Your Direct Payment can now be loaded onto a prepaid card.

A prepaid card is like a debit card, but you use it to receive and spend your Direct Payments. You will not normally be able to withdraw cash. If you need to make a contribution towards the cost of your care, you can also easily pay this on to a prepaid card. 

Prepaid cards have several benefits:

  • you will not need to set up a separate bank account to receive your Direct Payment.
  • you can get a prepaid card even if you don't have a bank account, or have a poor credit history
  • you can access your account online at any time
  • most prepaid card users do not need to provide monitoring information such as receipts or bank statement 
  • there is less risk of fraud, or you having to repay money because you have lost a receipt

In Peterborough you can get help and advice with your Direct Payments from Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS).