Direct payments – What is a direct payment and how do I get one?

What is a direct payment?

If you or someone you care for is assessed as eligible for adult social care, continuing healthcare (CHC) or some mental health aftercare, we will calculate a personal budget for you. Your personal budget is the amount of money we think is needed to manage your health and/ or care needs (we will just call these ‘care needs’ from now on).

You can ask us to:

  • use the personal budget to arrange your care for you, or
  • pay your personal budget to another organisation to arrange your care for you, or
  • pay your personal budget to you, as a direct payment, so that you can arrange your care yourself, or  
  • a combination of these.

If we agree with you that a direct payment is the best way to meet your needs we will tell you how much we will pay to you. How much we pay to you depends on your needs and how you are going to use the direct payment to meet them. We usually make direct payments through a direct payment card account.  You can find out more about direct payment card accounts here: Direct Payment Card Accounts FAQ

Depending on your personal circumstances, you might be asked to make a contribution to meeting the costs of your social care. If you have savings and capital above £23,250 (ignoring the value of the home you live in), you are not eligible for a direct payment to manage your social care needs.  

If you are offered a health direct payment via a Personal Health Budget (PHB) you do not need to make a contribution towards the costs of meeting your care needs.

Who can have a direct payment?

Generally anyone assessed as having eligible care needs, where those needs will be met outside of residential care, can ask for a direct payment. We must agree with you that a direct payment is the right way to meet your needs. This means we must agree that a direct payment is value for money and enables you to meet your agreed care outcomes.

You can ask us to make the direct payment to you, or you can nominate someone to receive the direct payment for you. You can read more about what a nominated person is.

We can also make direct payments available for people who lack mental capacity to ask for one. Lacking mental capacity means that the person is not able to make their own decisions about direct payments, because of some sort of mental disorder such as dementia. Where we agree that having a direct payment is in a person’s best interests and offers value for money, we can make the direct payment to an authorised person instead. You can read more about what an authorised person is.

There are some people that the law stops us making direct payments to, for example people who are subject to certain mental health or criminal justice legislation.

What can I spend a direct payment on?

Direct payments can be used in a range of ways, to meet the assessed eligible needs and outcomes agreed in your support plan. Your worker will decide with you how you can use your direct payment. 

People who have direct payments often like them because they feel they have more choice, flexibility and control over the care they receive. For example:

  • Choice – you can employ a personal assistant(s) (PA) of your choice to provide support at the times you want
  • Flexibility – you can arrange care or activities for the time and days that you want
  • Control and independence – you can make your own care arrangements directly, without needing to ask us to do this for you.  You can choose to buy additional hours of support from your own personal funds.

There are some things you cannot spend your direct payment on, for example:

  • Anything illegal
  • Normal household costs such as rent, food, utility bills or other day to day expenses
  • Long term residential care (in a care home or nursing home)
  • Employing your partner or a close family member living in the same household as you
  • Employing the same person to manage your direct payment and deliver care to you
  • Anything not previously agreed and documented in your support plan
  • Services that do not meet the agreed outcomes in your support plan.

How do I ask for a direct payment?

If you think you might like a direct payment, the worker who completes your assessment will be able to advise you and guide you through the direct payment process.

You don’t have to decide straight away. We can arrange temporary services to meet your immediate needs, while you take time to think about it.

If you decide that you would like a direct payment in future, after your assessment, contact your usual worker.  If you are not sure who your worker is, please contact the Single Point of Access (SPA) on 01472 256 256 or for health direct payments contact the Continuing Healthcare Hub on 0300 330 2990.  

Page last updated: 06 Oct 2023