Q & A: Organising Your Own Care Budget (Self Directed Support – “Direct Payment”)

What is Self Directed Support?

Self-Directed Support (SDS) is a new way of delivering social care services. Instead of a care manager deciding what a person’s support needs are and then arranging it, people with disabilities and carers complete a supported self-assessment questionnaire, from which a support plan is then drawn up. They are then given a personal budget to spend on goods, services and support that meet their assessed needs and agreed outcomes in a way that they choose. This is sometimes referred to as a “Direct Payment” scheme.

Who is eligible for Self-Directed Support?

Anyone who is eligible for services from Social Services (please see our post covering eligibility) is entitled to have them provided by SDS, including existing service users. Financial assessments apply to determine how much, if anything, people will be expected to contribute to their care and support. It is hoped that by April 2011 some 30% of all service users receiving local authority funded support will be receiving personal budgets.

Why is this better than the existing system?

SDS should make services far more personal, flexible and creative as people will be writing and controlloing their own support plans. SDS  also means that people can choose to have their personal budget in the form of a Direct Payment (DP). A DP is when the personal budget is paid directly into the bank account of the disabled person/carer and they can spend it as they wish provided they are meeting the needs they identified in their self-assessment. DPs give people the opportunity to arrange services themselves in a way that suits their lifestyle, employing support workers of their choice rather than relying on agency workers arranged by social services – giving them more control and better value for money. There are some restrictions on DPs such as not employing close family members (unless in exceptional circumstances) or using DPs to pay for long-term residential care.

What if I do not want the responsibility of handling my personal budget myself?

SDS clients do not have to be in charge of their personal budgets if they do not want to be. People can choose to have Social Services retain control of their personal budget, or they can share the responsibility with them. Or they could decide that they want a family member or carer to receive their personal budget in the form of a Direct Payment on their behalf.

Who decides how much money I am given in my personal budget and how that money is used?

Once a person with social care needs has completed the supported self-assessment questionnaire the Resource Allocation System (RAS) will convert the level of need into points. These points are then translated into money – the individual’s personal budget. The RAS should make the allocation of funding fairer as it is an independent system and does not rely on care managers awarding money and services according to their own judgement. Once the personal budget has been agreed the person then draws up a support plan which details how the personal budget will be used to meet their assessed needs. A care manager will need to ‘sign off’ on the support plan to ensure that the plan is affordable, legal and will meet the needs identified in the supported self-assessment.

How will I know how to manage my personal budget?

Local Authorities all now employ support brokers who offer advice and guidance on how to manage personal budgets. 

What about people who are funding their care and support privately?

People who are meeting the cost of their care needs privately (self-funders) can still access support from local Social Services to help them identify their care needs and how best to meet them. Self-funders can also access the brokerage services available from private and community organisations.

Will anyone be checking up on how I use my personal budget?

Even though people may be receiving their personal budget in the form of a DP, the local authority Social Services retains a responsibility to ensure that the client is not putting themselves at risk and that the personal budget is being used appropriately. This means that SDS clients are expected to provide quarterly monitoring information, and their support plans be reviewed annually, to ensure that assessed needs are being met and that the needs have not changed.

Where can I go for more information?

More information on SDS S can be found at www.in-control.org.uk. A useful booklet called A guide to receiving direct payments from your local council – a route to independent living is available from the Department of Health (www.dh.gov.uk, 0300 123 1002). Your local branch of Age Concern (now called Age UK)  www.ageuk.org.uk ) can also advise older people and their carers on DPs.

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