If you or a member of your family needs support to live independently, this basic information sheet tells you about direct payments, a way of having more choice and control over the help you need.
What are direct payments?
Direct payments are payments given to individuals by Social Services departments to enable them to buy services they have been assessed as needing. They can be given to disabled people aged 16 or over, to people with parental responsibility for disabled children, and to carers aged 16 or over in respect of carer services.
The aim of a direct payment is to give more flexibility in how services are provided to people who are assessed as eligible for social services support. Providing money in lieu of social care services gives people greater choice and control over their lives, and enables them to make their own decisions about how their care is delivered.
Who can get direct payments?
Most people who have been assessed as needing a social care service can get direct payments.
This includes people with:
- physical or sensory impairments
- learning difficulties
- mental health problems
- long-term conditions or who need help because of the effects of growing older.
You can also receive direct payments if you are a:
- carer who has been assessed as needing support in your own right
- parent of a disabled child – for services that support you in bringing up your child
You can ask for direct payments if you wish to be in control of the services you need, and you are able to arrange and manage those services, either by yourself or with help. You do not have to be able to do everything yourself. As long as you stay in charge of what happens you can have as much help as you need to manage direct payments.
What can direct payments be used for?
You can use direct payments to arrange support tailored to meet your individual needs. You can decide what sort of help you need, how you want the help to be provided and the times when you want to have help.
Direct payments are not extra money to spend as you wish. The money must be used to meet the needs for which Social Services have agreed you should have help. You can do this by:
- employing your own support staff
- buying services from private care agencies
- paying for daytime opportunities
Direct payments can also be used for one-off or intermittent services, such as buying short periods of respite care, or buying equipment to help you remain independent.
You do not have to take full control straight away. You can continue to have some services arranged by Social Services whilst you arrange only part of your support package. In this way, you only have to do what you feel confident about, giving you time to develop the skills needed to completely manage your services.
Is there anything I can’t use direct payments for?
Direct payments cannot be used to buy long-term residential or nursing care. You cannot use direct payments to buy a service that is managed by Social Services.
Unless exceptional circumstances apply, you cannot pay a relative or partner who lives with you for the support they provide. The restrictions are not intended to prevent you from employing live-in personal assistants. What is important is that the relationship between you and your personal assistant must be contractual rather than personal.
What are the advantages of direct payments?
You are in control. You can choose who supports you, how they support you and when. People who use direct payments enjoy the flexibility and choice that direct payments can bring, and frequently comment on how they have gained greater self-esteem, confidence, and control over how they live their lives.
How much will I get?
Before you can access direct payments you need an assessment in the same way as you would for any social care service. Your Case Manager or Social Worker will then offer a payment equivalent to its estimate of the cost you would incur to buy the service you need. The amount will be no more than what it would cost Social Services to meet your needs. If you choose to employ your own support staff, the level of payment will include allowances for meeting all your statutory responsibilities as an employer.
How is the money paid?
You must open a separate bank account for direct payments. Payments will be made four-weekly in advance into your account. You will have to provide records of how you have used the money to pay for the help you need. You will be provided with simple forms for this and can have help to complete the forms.
Or you could have a Kent Card which is provided by Kent County Council and works like a debit card and can be used to pay for your care via the telephone, online or with a chip and pin machine. Your direct payments are loaded on to the Kent Card.
Will my benefits be affected?
No, Direct Payments do not affect your benefits. However, you will be charged for them in line with the Kent County Council Domicilliary Charging Policy.
Direct payments will not be taken into account by the Benefits Agency.
Will I be liable for tax?
No, direct payments are only to be used to pay for your care needs so cannot be assessed as income on which you have to pay tax.
Will I have to pay anything?
You will usually have to contribute to the cost of your services. The exact amount will depend on your income and savings, but it will be the same amount as you would be charged for services had Kent County Council provided them directly.
What support is available to help me manage direct payments?
CiLK has five experienced personal assistant employers (PAE’s) to provide peer information, advice and support for all aspects of managing direct payments. In addition CiLK offers the following services:
- Peer support network
- Independent Living advocacy
- Training for Personal Assistant (PA) employers
- PA recruitment via website
- Payroll advice
- Training for other agencies
- Referral to other services
- Support for other types of assistance such as British Sign Language or reading correspondence
What do I do next?
Telephone: 01233 633187
Or write to:
Centre for Independent Living Kent
The 123 Centre
123 County Square