In this week’s blog we look at Direct Payments; what they are, what they can be used for and how you can get one. Direct Payments were initially introduced as a part of the Community Care Act (Direct Payment Act) as a way of enabling people with disabilities to take control of their care themselves. Direct payments are an option for all eligible adults and children with a “Social Need” and more recently have been made available to those eligible for Continuing Healthcare funding via the NHS. In both cases a professional will work with you to assess your needs, develop a plan of how to meet those needs, provide you with a personal budget (or personal health budget for the NHS) detailing how those needs will be funded. Your care and support can be provided by a service paid for directly by the local authority or NHS, which is known as commissioned support, or via a Direct Payment, or even a mix of both depending on your needs.
So, what is a Direct Payment? The concept is very straightforward, instead of having your local authority arranging your care and support, they provide you with the funds to arrange your own support. Many people use their Direct Payments to recruit and employ their own staff, commonly known as Personal Assistants or PA’s. That might sound like a lot of responsibility and, to be honest, it can be. However, the current legislation states that the Direct Payment can include cost for support services to help you to get things right.
But you may not want to employ your own PA’s so what else could they be used for? In essence, a Direct Payment should be used creatively to meet your social need (and local authorities are very clear, these must be needs they have identified as a part of their assessment, and not just what they may perceive as “wants”). So, you may want to consider buying in a service from a care agency for example or using it to access support services such as care farms, day centres and other support groups that help you meet your needs and achieve the outcomes you have set with within your support plan.
Direct Payments can also be paid as a one-off for items of equipment where these cannot be provided for free through any local services, or for respite care.
Strictly speaking, the only things you shouldn’t use a Direct Payment for are your usual household costs such as utility bills and food, gambling, anything illegal, residential care and services provided by the local authority or the NHS.
At Equal Lives and Suffolk Independent living we have been providing Direct Payment support and advice for many years, and even if you have not been assessed we can point you in the right direction should you wish to know more.
Find out more about this service on our dedicated website for Suffolk Independent Living - https://www.suffolkindependentliving.org.uk/