What is a Direct Payment?

Direct payments are local health and social care trust payments for people who have been assessed as needing help from social services and who would like to arrange and pay for their own care and support services instead of receiving them directly from the local trust.

Who is Eligible for Direct Payments?

Ability of giving consent

A person must be able to give their consent to receiving direct payments and be able to manage them even if they need help to do this on a day-to-day basis.

If you already receive social services

Your local trust is obliged to offer you the option of direct payments in place of the services you currently receive. There are some limited circumstances where you are not given this choice and your local trust will be able to tell you about these.

If you’re not receiving social services

To get direct payments you’ll need to contact your local trust to ask them to assess your needs. Direct payments are normally available if you:

  • have a disability and are aged 16 or over
  • are a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a child with disabilities
  • are an older person

If you’ve been refused social services

If your local trust has decided that you do not need social care services, it will not offer you direct payments. If you think your needs or circumstances have now changed, ask your local trust for a new assessment.

How Much do You Get?

The amount you receive will depend on the assessment your local trust makes of your needs.

How is it Paid?

Direct payments are made directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings’ account. If you need someone who cares for you to collect your money, or you are registered blind, payment can be made by sending a cheque which can be cashed at the post office. Find out more about how the benefits are paid by direct payments.

How to Apply for Direct Payments Locally?

  • If you already get services, ask your local trust about direct payments
  • If you are applying for services for the first time, your social worker should discuss the direct payment options with you when they assess your care needs.

What You Can Use Direct Payments For?

The money is for you to use to pay for the services and/or equipment which will meet the needs the local trust has assessed you as having. As a general principle, trusts should aim to leave you to choose how best to meet your assessed needs. This is as long as they are satisfied that the agreed support arrangements made are being met.

What You Can’t Use Direct Payments For?

You cannot use direct payments to:

  • pay for permanent residential accommodation – but you may be able to use direct payments to secure occasional short periods in residential accommodation, if your local trust agrees that is what is needed
  • secure a service from your spouse or civil partner, close relatives or anyone who lives in the same household as you, unless that person is someone you have specifically recruited to be a live-in employee (other than in exceptional circumstances, which your trust may agree with you).

Record Keeping

If you receive direct payments, you’ll need to account for the money you spend. Your local council will tell you what records you need to keep and what information you’ll be expected to provide; such as timesheets signed by personal assistants, or receipts for services from agencies.

The trust will have to satisfy itself that the needs for which it is giving you direct payments are being met. They should tell you how they will go about this. This may involve a visit to your home.

Parents, Carers and Direct Payments

If you are a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a child with disabilities, you may be eligible for direct payments.

However, you cannot use direct payments to buy services for the person you care for. They can only be spent on getting the support you, as a carer, have been assessed as needing to support you in your caring role. This includes support that may help maintain your health and well-being. For example, to pay for driving lessons or a holiday so you can have time to yourself. If you are assessed as needing domestic help, you may ask for a direct payment and buy the support services you need.

You also cannot use direct payments to secure a service from your spouse or civil partner, close relatives or anyone who lives in the same household as you – unless that person is someone who you have specifically recruited to be a live-in employee. There can be exceptional circumstances, which your local trust may agree with you.

Direct payments are also available for people with disabilities who have been assessed as needing help from social services. If you have parental responsibility for a child with disabilities, direct payments that can be used for a variety of services for your child can be made to you.

Effect on Other Benefits

Direct payments are not a replacement of income and therefore do not affect any other benefits you may be receiving.

What to do if Your Circumstances Change?

If your social services needs change

If your needs change, contact your local trust as soon as possible so that they can reassess the level of payments you require. It doesn’t matter whether the changes are long-term or short-term. For example, if you don’t need to spend the full amount because your condition improves temporarily, or you go into hospital, your payments may need to be adjusted.

If you don’t want to continue with direct payments

If you decide you don’t want to continue, the local trust will arrange services instead. If the trust decides you cannot manage with direct payments, it might decide to stop making direct payments and provide services instead.
Further detailed information can be found by visiting the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Note: The direct payments made by your local trust for pensions and other benefits are different from the direct payments mentioned above as these are dedicated payments provided to you by your local trust for arranging your own care and services.

Salisbury Support 4 Autism and Direct Payments

What you can expect from Salisbury Support 4 Autism about direct payments:

  • We can give you or support you to get important info about the direct payment system and how you can arrange it
  • We may be able to work together with your social worker to find out your support needs for them to arrange your direct payment
  • Precise and accurate records of agreed support needs and invoices so that you can comply with your record keeping responsibilities with your local council
  • Yearly (or as and when needs arise) person-centred reviews with your social workers and other professionals to discuss your health, wellbeing and needs which can be useful for you to discuss any change of needs to reflect on your direct payments.

How we Manage Direct Payments

We send invoices monthly. Payments can be made via BACS or with cheque. For our day care and respite services, the invoices are sent out on the 3rd of the following month for the period invoiced for – this is to ensure that dates are confirmed before sending out the invoice. For supported living and residential services, it is on the 23rd of the month as this is a permanent service.