What is self directed support

What is self directed support?

So what self directed support or 'Personalisation'?

So what self directed support or ‘Personalisation’?  
Self directed support is about people being in control of the support they need to live the life they choose.

You may also have heard it being referred to as ‘personal budgets’. There are different ways to describe it, but whatever name has been given to it, it’s about giving people real power and control over their lives.

The term ‘self directed support’ will be used because it is a little more descriptive than ‘Personalisation’.

A personal budget

How does a personal budget fit into this? Basically, a personal budget is money that is available to someone who needs support. Of course, the money is agreed through a process in consultation with the local authority or health services (or both).

The person who needs the help (the personal budget is for them) can control the budget or they can have a representative such as a family member or friend responsible for managing the money. They must:

  • Know how much money that they have for their support.
  • Be able to spend the money in ways and at times that make sense to them.
  • Know what outcomes must be achieved with the money.

An individual’s personal budget can be:

  1. All care arranged and provided by the local/health authority
  2. Direct Payment (DP) – cash for you to arrange your own
  3. A mixture of these options.

How does someone gain control of Self-Directed Support?

  • Social Services or Health worker assess the person’s needs and a care plan will be created.
  • A calculation is made of the cost of meeting those needs.
  • The person is told how much their care is likely to cost.
  • The person is offered a Direct Payment (DP) so they can decide and arrange their own support (personalised) or they can choose to let the health or social care team arrange their care.
  • If a Direct Payment is chosen for some or all of the care then the DRC (who have DP Support Advisors) are contacted to assist the person to explore their choices and staff (green section).

Direct Payment support advisors (from the DRC) discuss the person’s needs and requirements of what they want their support to look like. They help with recruiting staff, planning and training and how to manage the Direct Payment.

Email us to arrange an appointment or call the team on 01582 470900.

Some more details about the scheme, and how we can help you.

1. What is a Direct Payment?

A Direct Payment is defined as: ‘A monetary payment made in lieu of social care services, directly to people that have been assessed as having a care and support need’.

Local authorities and Health Authorities in England and Wales have a statutory responsibility to offer people (including carers), with assessed support needs, the option of receiving a Direct Payment.

Direct Payments are most Local Authority’s preferred method for people to manage and receive care and support. Health Authorities are starting to offer Direct Payments more widely.

Depending on the person’s financial circumstances, they may be asked to make a financial contribution towards the costs of their care and support package (local authority only).

There are some limitations on how Direct Payments can be used. For example, people cannot usually pay someone that lives in the same household as them (authorities can use their discretion).

If the person employs staff with the Direct Payment, they will be expected to comply with employment law.

They will be responsible for how the Direct Payment is used, and local authorities (or health authorities) will monitor that the money is spent as agreed in the care plan.

2. What is needed to qualify?

A person can get a Direct Payment if they are of any age and assessed as needing care and support provided by health and/or social care services.

This includes people who:

  • Have a physical disability or sensory impairment.
  • Have a learning disability.
  • Have a mental health condition.
  • Have parental responsibility for a child with a disability.
  • Are 16+ and provide substantial care for a person with a disability.

Direct payments give people more choice about their care and support arrangements.

To receive a Direct Payment the person’s needs must be assessed and agreed with a social worker and/or health worker.

Most people use their direct payments currently to recruit and employ their own personal assistants. The Direct Payment may be used for something else but it must be used as agreed with your social worker or health worker and included in the support plan.

People who decide to become an employer take on the responsibility of paying tax and National Insurance for their personal assistant(s) and they will be expected to manage these payments and comply with employment legislation. As scary as this may sound, people are not left to muddle through on their own because support is provided every step of the way to help this go as smoothly as possible.

The DRC Direct Payment Support Service offers a payroll service that will sort out all of the Tax and National insurance. The DRC also advises on employment legislation.

3. Spending Direct Payments

The funding authority will determine the amount of the DP using an hourly rate. The money paid to personal assistants will be an amount lower than this. The rest of the hourly rate will be used to meet employment costs and to encourage good employment practice (e.g. taking out employment liability insurance).

Money is allocated to the person with care needs. To ensure that the money handed over is not used as a ‘benefit’ or the person’s own money, the funding authority ask that the funds are paid into a bank account specific for the Direct Payment. The Person signs an agreement that the funds will be used to fulfil needs for personal support, as agreed in the care and support plan.

Examples of how Direct Payments can be used (other than PA wages):

  • Recruiting and training personal assistants.
  • To pay for cover for the personal assistant during periods of sickness or holiday.
  • Any agreed equipment.
    For respite and short breaks.
  • For an agency to provide care support.
  • For an agency to support you to go out and about.
  • Pay for an activity during the day.

As this is not an exhaustive list please ask for help and advice if there is a necessary cost that is not listed.

Although some variations and restrictions apply, Direct Payment schemes run by funding authorities should be both imaginative and flexible so that people receive the most appropriate care package.

It is very important that the money is used for legitimate purposes.

4. Using Care Agencies

In some circumstances using a care agency can be a better fit than recruiting Personal Assistants. Direct Payments can be used to pay for agencies to provide support.


  • All the services will be arranged for you.
  • You can specify when you want assistance and what assistance you need.
  • In case of sickness or holiday of a regular worker, the agency will provide cover.


  • You may find you have less control over the service you receive.
  • You may have to work with a number of different people.
  • Some agencies charge more per hour than the Direct Payment allows – so you may have to pay a top up on the hourly charge.

Care Agencies are good to use for short-term cover for when the personal assistant is unavailable.

It may be preferable to combine the best services of an agency with a regular personal assistant employed outside an agency. (This is allowed).

If an agency is to be used, support can be given to make enquiries to get the best service and value for the support required.

Support with New Responsibilities

Taking on new responsibilities can seem worrying, complicated and confusing. The Direct Payments support team are available to provide comprehensive information, support and advice:

  • Client Action Plan. This plan is used to record the information you received from the and as a reminder of what has been learned about managing the Direct Payment.
  • Information booklets and leaflets providing in-depth information on relevant subjects.
  • Opening a new bank account (Direct Payments requires a separate account from the household / normal personal account).
  • Keeping Records.
  • All aspects of recruitment including advertising, interviewing, obtaining references and DBS checks.
  • Help to set up employer and public liability insurance.
  • Explaining funder authority , when to get them and how to fill them in.
  • Provide a list of Care Agencies.
  • Provide you with a job description for a personal assistant.
  • Advice on training that is available and applicable for personal assistants.
  • Information on the Peer Support Group (a group of Direct Payment users and some of the Support Team).
  • Information on the Payroll Service, which provides pay slips for employees and works out all the Tax and National Insurance contributions. A new employee details form will need to be completed which will be provided by the Support team. This is without charge to you as the LA or health authority pays it directly.

There will also be advice, explanations and reassurance about the new responsibilities as an employer and information sheets will be provided to read at a later date. The advice will include:

  1. Tax and National Insurance including specific forms needed.
  2. Contracts of employment.
  3. Proof of right to work in the UK
  4. Rates of pay for personal assistants including information on the minimum wage.
  5. Leaflets on new legislation e.g. working time directive.
  6. Work Place Pensions.

The Direct Payments team can deal with questions by phone, email, visit the person at home, or at a mutual venue.

Our Payroll Service explained.

Payroll work out what to pay the personal assistant(s), what needs to kept in the account for Tax and National Insurance purposes and also make the statutory returns to the Inland Revenue.

What the Payroll Service offers:

  • Inform HMRC about a new employer and get all the correspondence sent directly to us.
  • Complete relevant paperwork on the
  • Provide timesheets to keep a record of hours worked.
  • Calculate how much Tax and National insurance the employer pays.
  • Notify the employer how much to pay the Inland Revenue each quarter.
  • Calculate any statutory payments such as sickness, maternity or paternity pay.
  • Send a payslip to the employer advising what to pay the employee(s).
  • Complete end of year Tax Return and submit it to HMRC.
  • Complete end of year Tax Return and submit it to HMRC.

Keeping You Safe (Safeguarding practices)

When recruiting, it is important that certain measures are put in place to protect people with support needs or their child (children).

There are many ways this can be done during the recruitment process:

  • The wording in job advertisements.
  • Within the application form/pack.
  • Whilst interviewing.
  • Taking references.
  • Getting a DBS check.

Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (DBS checks)

Direct Payment employers are not obligated to make these checks, however it is strongly advised that these checks are carried out.

Local authority and health authorities make it mandatory for personal assistants looking after under 18’s to have a DBS check. It is good to let people know as soon as possible that these checks are going to be carried out.

The office of the Direct Payments team will act as a mailing address and a point of contact for any enquiries if required, so that people’s anonymity/ identity can be protected.

The Direct Payments support worker will be able to discuss any issues concerning personal safety and will offer important advice during the recruitment process if needed.

Employer’s Insurance

When anyone takes on a personal assistant and becomes an employer it is very important that adequate and appropriate insurance is taken out. This is to provide cover for injury or to protect financially against possible claims made by employees.

Direct Payment employers need to have some form of Employer’s Liability and Personal Accident Insurance.

Employing People Legally

Every employer in the UK has a legal obligation under the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 to make basic document checks on every person they intend to employ.

The requirements do not apply where:

  • You use workers supplied by an agency under a contract of services (These checks are the responsibility of the agency).
  • You have proof that the worker is registered self-employed and invoice you for the work they do.

The cost of the first insurance premium is usually paid as part of the Direct Payment start up costs. Premiums vary from £77 upwards per annum. Luton Borough Council (LBC) will pay the insurance direct for you (it normally costs £88 per year).

The Direct Payments support team will be able to help with an application for a policy and advise on what is covered, according to need.

We can help you get started and answer your questions along the way. Our support advisors (from The Disability Resource Centre) will discuss your needs and requirements of what your care and support should look like. They help with recruiting care staff, planning and training and how to manage the accounts.

Email us to arrange an appointment or call the team on 01582 470900.

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