Once you have had an assessment, the local authority must set out how it will meet your eligible needs in a “care and support plan”.
What is a care and support plan?
A care and support plan is a detailed document setting out what services will be provided, how they will meet your needs, when they will be provided, and who will provide them.
You are entitled to see a copy of your care and support plan and the local authority should make sure that you are happy with it before it is finalised.
Your plan should be reviewed regularly by the local authority once it is in place, at least once a year or more often if necessary. Your plan should always be reviewed if your circumstances change.
At the bottom of the care and support plan there must be a sum of money, called a “personal budget”.
What is a personal budget?
Adults with eligible needs can be given a personal budget by the local authority. The amount you get must be enough to meet ‘eligible’ needs and pay for all the services set out in your care and support plan.
The personal budget can be given to you in three different ways (or a combination of them):
- By services being provided directly by the local authority (such as the local authority giving you a placement at a day centre).
- By services being provided by an organisation like a charity.
- By the provision of direct payments.
The Government says that local authorities must not use reviews of care and support to cut personal budgets without having a good reason. See our information on challenging a decision if your budget has been cut or if you are worried it is not enough to cover the costs of the support you need.
So in a nutshell, a personal budget is the amount of money you can get to pay for the care and support that meets your needs, whether this support is provided by the local authority or paid for by you using direct payments.
What are direct payments?
“Direct payments” are cash payments given directly to the person who needs care and support (or their family if the person lacks the capacity to manage their money themselves) so that they can choose what services to buy and organise their own support. This is an alternative to services being provided directly by the local authority or by another organisation like a charity.
You have a right to request a direct payment to buy the support or services set out in your care and support plan. And the council must say yes to this in most circumstances.
The idea is that disabled people and their families will have more choice and control over their own care by using direct payments. If you require support, this can mean employing carers directly. You can get help managing your direct payments by using local direct payment support services (DPSS), which are usually provided by local authorities and by user-led organisations.
Note – If you have health needs as well you may meet the criteria to be fully funded by health, or to be jointly funded by health and social care.
What can you spend your direct payments on?
For many people, their direct payments will be spent on employing support staff. This can be done by:
- directly employing personal support staff. Local authorities should ensure the direct payment covers the costs associated with directly employing support staff (e.g. National Insurance, DBS checks, holiday pay and training costs).
- using a support provider. The provider will take on all the employment duties and responsibilities and include this in the amount it charges. Providers should work alongside you and when appropriate your family to make sure you are actively involved in recruitment, supervision of staff and identifying training needs.
Direct payments can also be used to buy equipment or adaptations that would otherwise have been provided by social services.
Examples of how you might use your direct payments:
- To pay someone to support you in a job.
- To pay someone to support you at college.
- To get support for you to take a short break.
- To get support for personal care.
- To get support for cooking or cleaning.
- To get support for leisure time.
If you are not able to manage your direct payments yourself, you can ask a “suitable person” to do this for you. This could be a family member or friend.
You can use part of your direct payment to pay this person to help you with your direct payments.
You can ask your local authority if they have direct payments support services that can help you manage your budget, such as employing a personal assistant.
Support and advocacy to plan your care
The Care Act says that the care and support plan must be person-centred and person-led. If you have substantial difficulty in understanding how your care is being planned, someone close to you such as a family member should be involved to help you understand it. If there is no suitable person who can help you understand it, you are entitled to support from an independent advocate.
An advocate can support you to:
- understand what is happening
- understand your choices and make your own decisions
- tell others what you want and about your views and feelings
- make sure you get your rights
- make sure that documents say what you need them to say.
The Care Act brings in new rights to advocacy in certain circumstances. Local authorities must provide independent advocacy to people who would have “substantial difficulty” in being involved in planning their care, and who have no-one suitable (e.g. a family member or friend) who can support them to be involved.
Substantial difficulty being involved means that they would have substantial difficulty in one or more of these areas:
- understanding information
- retaining information
- weighing up information
- communicating their views.
How to get the support you need
Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.
Or why not take a look at FamilyHub? This is our online community for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability, and is a place for sharing experiences, advice and support.