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Personal budgets and direct payments in adult social care

Personal budgets and direct payments in adult social care April 2016

A Guide from Age UK

The ‘personalisation’ of adult social care.

Until recently, if you were eligible for help with social care from your local authority, you would receive a care plan with a list of services to help you. Your choice was limited – either have the services in your care plan arranged by the local authority or receive ‘direct payments’ and use the money to buy in services yourself. If you had direct payments, you had greater choice, because you were able to choose your own care provider and make arrangements yourself. Even then, care plans were usually prepared by adult social care without much involvement of you or your carer. This changed as a result of ‘personalisation’. The basic principle is your care and support should be individualised and tailored to fit around your specific needs, giving you greater independence, choice and control over your life. This has led to greater choice in how your care and support is delivered, but also puts more responsibility on you to manage your care needs. It has led to more arrangements by local authorities with private and voluntary sector organisations to provide social care. Local authorities provide fewer services themselves and are now commissioners of services more than providers. These principles are central to the Act, which provides the legal framework for adult social care.

Support and help to manage direct payments

Many people like the flexibility that direct payments bring, but find the idea of being an employer and managing public money quite daunting. Local authorities are encouraged to put in place systems to provide advice and information to help you with this. Sometimes, this is done through local authority staff employed as a direct payments team and sometimes the local authority commissions another specialist organisation to provide this support service. You can get this support whether you manage your own direct payment or whether you are a nominated or authorised person managing it for someone else. When you discuss the possibility of a direct payment with your social worker at the care planning stage, you should be given all the advice you need to help you get started and you should be put in touch with other organisations offering help and support.  The sort of help and support that you should be able to access ranges from one off advice on manual handling issues or suitable insurers through to services to advertise for staff, help with recruitment, contracts of employment and running the payroll for you. You may be able to discuss some of the questions that concern you with someone who is already managing their own direct payment. This can be extremely helpful and reassuring.

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