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Clearing the Fog with Direct Payments

According to research in October 2017 by Cerebra, there are 147,336 adults that are eligible for Direct Payments in Wales. Out of that 147,336 there has only been a take up of 5,859 direct payments. That’s less than 4%. This article explores the benefits of direct payments, the barriers faced and what you can and can’t apply for.

There would appear to be a cloud of mystery around the words Direct Payments – not many people know what they are, if they are eligible or how to apply for them. Many families do not realise that there is such a thing as Direct Payments, their son/ daughter went to school, then a college and then when leaving college a space was found at a local authority ‘day service’ where no mention of fee etc had been indicated. This appears to be normal across the UK. The fear that there is nothing else around is enough to keep most people in the service that they are in, regardless of whether they are happy and whether it meets their needs. The average price per person per day paid to a day service by a LA is in the region of £38.

In many cases the activities in the day service match those needs set out in the care and support plan and people are happy with the provision provided. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, that’s not always the case, it is important to know that there are other options out there that may be more suitable to readers of this article.

There seems to be a myth that you can only use direct payments on a Personal Assistant and are unable to buy public services with these funds. Until recently this was the case; however it has change following case law. If you are looking to employ a Personal Assistant, check out the following website that will give you all the tools to employ a suitable PA. Direct Payments now needs to be seen as a way of giving choice and independence.

You can spend your direct payments on what you decide will best meet your or your family members personal outcomes as set out in a care and support plan. For example: if there is a privately run provision that meets the needs of a person’s care plan, the individual is entitled to a choice of which service they access for the given hours stated in their care plan. In addition you are entitled to ask the LA for another assessment especially if your needs or circumstances have changed. It’s important you let them know.

If you decide you would like to take control of Direct Payments, you get control of choice of what services you need. Your local authority pays you an agreed amount into a bank account instead of arranging your care and support plan itself. You then use this money to achieve what matters to you in the way you choose. Some Local Authorities insist on having a separate bank account which serves only for the direct payments. They pay in an agreed amount and you can pay it to the service that you require. You may at certain points have to provide a statement to prove where the funds have gone. The stress of having to set up a separate bank account is enough to put some people off, but it really shouldn’t. Support should be there for you along the way. There is also an option to have the direct payments ‘loaded’ onto a pre-paid card – however you have the right to say no thank you and request the traditional way of accepting payment into a separate bank account.

As a direct payments user, you decide who supports you and when they support you, giving you far greater flexibility and choice about how your lead your life. However It is important to remember that direct payments must be used to meet the outcomes set out in your care and support plan and you may have to justify your use.

Below are a few ways that you are unable to use the money:

* To buy services from your local council or another council

* To pay for long-term residential care

* To pay for health care or housing

* To employ your partner or a close relative who lives in the same household (unless there are exceptional circumstances, e.g. a language barrier.)

Direct payments aren’t just limited to adults with physical disabilities, Direct payments can be made to the following:

  • adults and young people over 16 who can make decisions for themselves

  • a person with parental responsibility for a disabled child

  • a disabled parent who needs support to care for their child/children

  • carers aged 16 or over

  • a person who is unable to make their own decisions (payments are made to a suitable person – this is normally a family member or close friend acting in the best interests.) Usually an appointee and in some cases it can include the power of attorney.

If you have been assessed as needing support from the LA in order to achieve targets and goals set out in a care and support plan, you need to ensure that there is a clear financial agreement in place to cover the costs of services. You might think that as you or your family member has been in a Local Authority Provision for a few years that you may not be entitled to this - this is not true. You can ask your social worker without having to wait until your next review of your plan.

For as long as you are willing to manage them your council must make Direct Payments available. The amount is based on the number of hours care required and the outcome of your financial assessment. To find out more about financial assessment – click on There is a fantastic explanation.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to take up Direct Payments, but if you prefer, you can use a mixture of direct payments and services arranged by your local council. Lots of families worry about the time it takes to set up direct payments and whether they will be left in limbo, but according to the Ombudsman and NICE Guide, you should expect a fully commissioned service within three weeks, in this time while it is being set up, you should not be left without any care and a smooth transition should take place.

You can stop Direct Payments at any time by asking your social worker to ensure the local council put services in place to fully meet your needs. They make sure there is a care and support plan in place so there is no gap in your support services which many people worry about.

I hope that this article clarifies some of the ‘grey’ areas around Direct Payments. There are a lot of privately run services out there as well as council run provisions . It is important for you to ensure you find the right one for you or your family member, one that will not only take care of their needs as stipulated in the care and support plan but provide a stimulating environment. Research, question and don’t limit choice. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please share so that we can educate more people on Direct Payments and the choices it can bring.

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