Personal budgets

If your local council agrees to pay for some or all of your home help, it must offer you choice and control over how your needs are met.

You'll be given a personal budget, and can choose to receive it as a direct payment.

Personal budgets

A personal budget is the amount of money the local council allocates for your care, based on its assessment of your needs.

You can be put in charge of this budget either by telling the council how you would like it spent, or by the council giving you the money so you can directly pay for your own care (a direct payment).

It can 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.

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.

Find out how personal budgets work.

Direct payments

Direct payments give you the most control over your care.

If you're unhappy with the care you're getting, you can decide to change it without having to go through the local council.

But you have to be able to account for how you spend the budget. And you have responsibilities as an employer if you hire a personal assistant with your direct payment.

The Money Advice Service has a guide to using direct payments.

The pros and cons of taking charge of your personal budget

Being in control of your own personal budget means you have to spend some time and effort thinking about your care and support needs and the outcomes you want.

There may be extra 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 care workers through an agency. This removes the legal obligations of being employer, but may cost more and may remove some of the benefits of having the same person provide your care.

Read more about different types of care services.

How to receive your personal budget

Clarify how you want to receive your personal budget.

If you choose to receive it as a direct payment, the local council 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 council or by someone else, such as:

  • a friend or family member (the local council must agree to this)
  • a broker, independent social worker or an advocateĀ 
  • your care manager or social worker

Discuss these options with your social worker or carer to work out which option is best for you.

If someone else will be looking after your money, you may need to create a decision-making agreement. This should state how they'll look after your money and what decisions they can and can't make on your behalf.

Keep receipts

The council may want to check what you do with your money to make sure you're spending your budget appropriately, and your care and support needs are being met.

You may need to keep receipts (especially for large purchases) so you can show them you have spent your money responsibly.

If you choose a direct payment, the council will give you a direct payment agreement that sets out the terms and conditions.

If you're struggling to manage your money, the council can advise you on how to make your money work best for you.

Disagreements about care plans and personal budgets

If you have been told that you're not eligible for services, or you don't agree with the amount allocated to you in your personal budget, you have the right to complain.

Speak to your social worker about being re-assessed, or phone your local council social services department and request a complaints form. Your council should have a formal complaints procedure on its website.

If you're not happy with the way the council handles your complaint, you can take it to the local government and social care ombudsman. An ombudsman is an independent person who's been appointed to look into complaints about organisations.

Page last reviewed: 23/01/2018
Next review due: 23/01/2021