If your local authority agrees to pay for some or all of your home care needs, it must offer you choice over how to meet your needs – this is known as personalisation of your care and support.
A good assessment of your needs will help you begin to think about the kinds of things you may want to do to meet you care and support needs. Following this, you will be involved in planning out how you would like to meet your needs, and be given a personal budget, and can choose to take a direct payment.
Self-directed support through good planning, personal budgets and direct payments is often called "personalised support" or "personalisation". It gives you choice and control over how your needs are met, and enables you to do the things you value the most.
A personal budget is the amount of money the local authority allocates for your care, based on its assessment of your needs.
You can be put in charge of this "budget" either by telling the local authority how you would like it spent, or by the council giving you the money so that you can directly pay for your own care (a direct payment).
It could also be given to a separate organisation (such as a user-controlled trust) that will spend the money on your care as you see fit, if you prefer. These are commonly known as Individual Service Funds.
Additionally, you can choose a combination of the above (for example, a direct payment with some council-arranged care and support), often called a mixed package.
Direct payments give you the most control over your care, and mean that if you are unhappy with the services you’re getting, you can decide to change who gives you the care services without the process of going through the local authority.
However, with this freedom comes the responsibility of accounting for how the budget is spent to ensure it is meeting your needs, and additional responsibilities if you decide to become an employer and hire a personal assistant with your direct payment.
The Money Advice Service has a guide to using direct payments.
What does personalised support mean for me?
Personalisation means that you will have to spend some time and effort thinking about your care and support needs, the outcomes you wish to achieve, and how you may want to meet your needs.
Depending on the choices you make, there may be some additional responsibilities. For example, if you decide to request a direct payment to cover the cost of homecare, you could use the payment to hire an individual, giving you the responsibilities of an employer.
Alternatively, you could hire careworkers through an agency, which removes the legal obligations of being employer, but may potentially adds cost and may remove some of the benefits of having the same person provide your care.
Read more about how to choose care services.
How does personalised care and support work?
You and your social worker or care manager will work together to create a care and support plan. This plan details your care and support needs, and will be used to work out the value of your "personal budget". Your support plan should consider:
- what's important to you, including your interests, lifestyle, personal tastes and the people in your life
- your hopes for the future, such as whether you'd like to study or take on more hobbies outside the home
- what limitations you currently have and how you want to change
- what you want to achieve by managing your own support
Ensure that you include information about how you'll manage your money and what you'll spend the money on (including personal assistants, transport, housing adaptations, therapists and respite services).
You will need to clarify how you will manage your money. If you choose to receive your personal budget as a direct payment, the local authority may pay the money straight into a bank account that you control (you must set up a new bank account to do this) or they may give you a pre-paid card.
Alternatively, you may prefer your personal budget to be managed by the local authority or by someone else, such as:
- a friend or family member (the local authority must agree to this)
- a broker, independent social worker or an advocate
- your care manager or social worker
Discuss these options with your social worker or carer and consider which option is best for you. If someone else will be looking after your money, you may need to create a "decision-making agreement". A decision-making agreement should state how they will look after your money and what decisions they can and can’t make on your behalf.
The local authority may want to check what you do with your money, to make sure you’re spending your budget appropriately and that your care and support needs are being met. You may need to keep receipts where possible (especially for large purchases), so that you can show them you've spent your money responsibly. If you choose a direct payment, the council will give you a direct payment agreement that will set out the terms and conditions.
If you're struggling to manage your money, the local authority should advise you on how to make your money work best for you.
Checking your care plan is meeting your care and support needs
You should meet with your local authority at least once a year to discuss whether your care plan is working. This is an opportunity to discuss whether your needs are being met in the best way, and it's also your chance to talk about changes you want to make for the future.
You don’t have to wait for a review meeting to change the way in which you spend your budget. You can change things as you go along. If you want to make a big change, consult your care manager or social worker, who may arrange a review.
You can ask for a review meeting about your care plan at any time. To prepare for a review, you should provide any receipts you've kept since you were awarded a personal budget. If someone is managing your funds for you, get them to join the review meeting.
Disagreements about care plans and personal budgets
If you've been informed that you're not eligible for services, or you don’t agree with the amount allocated to you in your personal budget, you can request a reassessment.
Speak to your social worker or care manager about being reassessed, or phone your local authority social services department and request a complaints form.
Find out how direct payments and personal budgets work.