What is a personal budget?
If your local council is paying for some or all of your care and support, you have the right to know how much money they have allocated to you. This is called your personal budget. As long as it’s used to meet your qualifying care needs, you can decide who will manage it and how the money should be spent. Your local council must recommend the best way to meet your needs, but the final decision is up to you.
You can use your personal budget to organise your care in a way and at times that make sense to you. You could:
- buy equipment and services
- employ someone to provide care for you at home
- employ someone to help you do things outside your home.
Who can have a personal budget?
You should start by getting a care needs assessment. A social worker from the council will look at your needs to decide if you qualify for support. If you do, you should then have a separate financial assessment to see whether you have to pay for your care. If the council has to pay for all or some of your care, you must be given a personal budget.
Even if you may be paying for your care yourself, you should still have these assessments as your situation might change in the future.
If you already receive care services from your council, they should have told you what your personal budget is at your last annual review. If you haven’t had a review of your care within the last 12 months, or if you want to get your support in a different way, you can ask for a review.
If you disagree with the council’s assessment or review of your care needs, you can ask them to reconsider the decision. Or you can make a complaint using the council’s complaints procedure.
Planning your care and support
Your personal budget will show how much the council is paying towards your care and how much you may have to pay. The next step is to put together a care and support plan to show how you’re going to spend your personal budget. The assessor will help you do this.
Your plan should include:
- your qualifying care needs
- what you want to achieve in your day-to-day life, such as being able to go out more
- how your support will be organised, such as the type of services you will get and who will organise them.
You may want the support of an independent advocate to help you express your wishes.
Ways to receive the money
It’s up to you how much control you have over your personal budget. You can choose to receive it in the following ways:
- direct payments – you receive the money from the council and buy your own support services
- managed budgets – the council or another organisation or third party manage the money for you but you decide how it is spent. This is the most common option for older people
- user-controlled trusts – you make the decisions but three or more trustees manage the money and the practical side of things.
You can also choose to have a combination of these. The council should help you decide the best option for you.
You could use a support planning service (also called a brokerage service). Some voluntary organisations offer such services. If the brokerage service isn’t free, the cost should be included as part of your personal budget. Ask your council for details of services in your area.
If you’re receiving care in a care home or other residential setting, you must also be given a personal budget and a care plan, but you can’t receive direct payments.
Your responsibilities if you employ someone
If you decide to use your direct payments to employ someone as a carer, you will have some legal responsibilities as an employer. These include:
- providing contracts and terms of employment
- paying the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage
- deducting tax and National Insurance
- managing holiday and sick pay
- following health and safety legislation
- possibly enrolling your care worker in a pension scheme.
Your council should provide you with details of local organisations that can give you advice about becoming an employer and help you to find a suitable carer. Or you could contact Disability Rights UK.
If someone lacks mental capacity
People who lack mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care are still entitled to direct payments if a ‘suitable person’ asks on their behalf. That could be a family member, someone with power of attorney or a deputy appointed by the Court of Protection. The council must decide if the person is suitable. The council should also find out from the person without mental capacity what sort of care they want, as far as possible.
Personal budgets for carers
If you are a carer, you should start by having a carer’s assessment. If you qualify for help in your caring role and the council pays for some or all of your support, you are also entitled to a personal budget. You can’t use your personal budget to buy services for the person you’re caring for.
For more information, see our guide Caring for someone.