Personal Budget and Direct Payments: A quick guideWe are receiving an ever increasing number of enquiries requesting information regarding the widely promoted Personal Budget and Direct Payments scheme.This scheme exists to allow people the freedom of choice. The freedom to choose your own care provider and the care package best suited to your needs. We have, therefore, prepared below a video and summary of what Personal Budget and Direct Payments are and who would be entitled to them.Personal Budget Video (02:35)What are Direct Payments?If you, or the person you are looking after, have been assessed as needing Social Services support from your local council or trust, you have the option of asking for a ‘Direct Payment’ instead of receiving support arranged by the local council or trust.What is the difference between council/trust organised support and Direct Payments?Instead of receiving support arranged by your council or trust, a Direct Payment support package enables you choose and purchase the services you feel you need as agreed with your funding body. For example, you may wish to employ someone directly to help manage the care of the person you’re looking after.How do I ask for a Direct Payment?Before requesting a Direct Payment, you first need to be assessed by your local council or trust. The assessment process differs depending on whether you are the person who receives the care, or a representative of the person who receives the care. If you, or the person you are looking after, are assessed as needing support, then the local council or trust will work out how much it would cost to provide such support (called a personal budget). This is then broken down into any amount you, or the person you are looking after, might have to pay, if anything, and any amount the local council/trust has to contribute.You can then ask the local council or trust for a Direct Payment, or you can ask them to arrange the support for you. A Direct Payment is the amount of money that the local council or trust has to pay to meet your needs, or the needs of the person you are looking after. This Direct Payment, this financial support, enables you to purchase the previously assessed and agreed upon necessary services to help you with your support needs and/or the support needs of the person you care for.How much will the Direct Payment be?The Direct Payment must be for an amount that sufficiently meets your needs, or the needs of the person you care for, which you have been assessed by yourlocal council/trust as having. Occasionally, the local council/trust will ask for a contribution towards the cost of meeting your needs.What can I spend the Direct Payment on?The Direct Payment must be used to meet the your/their needs as deemed appropriate by the local council or trust who assessed you/them. The local council or trust has to agree that what you/they spend the Direct Payment on will meet these needs.Will getting a Direct Payment affect any benefits that I/we/they receive?Direct Payments given to you as a carer or to someone receiving care to purchase services to meet your needs are not counted as ‘income’ for any benefits you receive, and will not therefore affect any of your benefits. If the person you are looking after, however, pays you or anyone else with their Direct Payments then this would count as ‘earnings’ and might affect any benefits you, or anyone else being paid, receives. If the person I am looking after gets a Direct Payment to purchase a care worker, does this mean they become an employer?Yes - If you hire a Personal Assistant directly.Yes - If you use a family member.No - If you hire a care agency such as Mayfair Care Services Ltd.If the person you are looking after employs a Personal Assistant directly (even if this is a family member or friend), then they will be taking on the responsibilities of an employer. As an employer you would be required perform such tasks as checking the references and current Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, making sure the intended employee has the right to work in the UK, setting up a system for paying wages (deducting Income Tax and National Insurance, and keeping records for HMRC), ensuring the employee their entitlements (such as annual leave, maternity/paternity/sick pay and any auto enrolment duties), undertaking a Health & Safety Risk Assessment of your home, or the location where the employee will primarily work and obtaining suitable insurance cover (i.e., Employer’s Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance).If, however, the person you are looking after uses a care agency (such as Mayfair Care Services Ltd.) to purchase this service, then the care agency would be the employers, and the person you are looking after would not be taking on any of the above responsibilities of an employer.Independent adviceMayfair Care Services recommends Penderels Trust when deciding on whether Personal Budget is suitable for you. Penderels Trust is a charity organisation that has been at the forefront of independent living for more than 30 years. Penderels Trust has a vast amount of knowledge on Personal Budgets and can help you set up a Direct Payment scheme or completely manage a Direct Payment scheme on your behalf.Other independent advice and guidance can be found in the links below:Essex County Council Personal Budget page.NHS Personal Budgets and Direct Payments page.Carers UK “Arranging care and support for Somebody” page.Age UK Personalised care budgets page.