Your guide to care and support

Taking charge of your own personal budget

If your local authority agrees to pay for some or all of your home care needs, 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 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 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 services you're getting, you can decide to change who gives you the care services without having to go through the local authority.

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 how to choose care services.

Creating your care plan

You and your social worker or care manager need to work together to create a care plan. This plan details your care and support needs, and can be used to work out the value of your personal budget.

Your care plan should include: 

  • 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

Make sure 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).

Clarify how you'll receive 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 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.

The local authority 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 local authority can advise you on how to make your money work best for you.

Check your care plan is working

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 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, provide any receipts you have 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 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 can ask for 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.

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