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Personal Budgets

The term 'personal budget' means different things to different people. For many, it means exactly what it sounds like: their money that they have budgeted. In terms of care, however, 'Personal Budget' has developed a specific meaning. 

Personal Budgets and care 

Over the last few years there has been a very significant change in the way that Social Services departments provide care; this is part of what is called 'personalisation'. Personal Budgets are a way of giving the service user control over the services that they receive. This means that instead of the Council deciding what services are best for individuals, the service user (with support from their friends, family and/or other professionals) gets to decide what's best for them themselves. To qualify for a Personal Budget you must have been assessed by the Council as having an Eligible Need. Take our Wizard to find out if you, or a person that you care for, is likely to be eligible in your local area.

Increasingly, if someone is going to get financial support from the Council they will get a Personal Budget awarded. This is supposed to cover the costs of meeting the needs that the Council has a statutory duty to meet. Each Council will have its own way of calculating how much money someone should receive, but it will also depend on how much money the individual has. Try our Funding Wizard to look at individual circumstances.

The person who is awarded the budget (with support from their friends, family and/or other professionals) will then have to agree with the Council as to how they are going to spend the money; this is often called a Care Plan and is incredibly useful to do whether you receive a council-funded Personal Budget or use your own money to help keep you independent.

Having a Personal Budget does not mean that you have to manage the budget yourself or employ people directly.The options are: 

  • Individuals can choose to manage it themselves if they want. This would mean that the money is paid into a bank account set up specifically to hold the budget and they then spend it themselves in line with the agreed Care Plan. This is often referred to as a 'Direct Payment'.
  • Individuals can choose to ask the Council to manage the Personal Budget for them. This means that the individual still gets to choose what they receive, often from a list of Council-approved providers, but the Council would then arrange the services and spend the money on their behalf.
  • Individuals can choose to take their Direct Payment and give it all directly to a provider to manage. The provider would then set up a special account for the individual and use it to provide care or support that the individual wanted. They would send regular statements to the individual so that they knew how much money was left in their account.
  • In certain circumstances, the Personal Budget can be paid to another person or organisation that manages the budget, and purchases the care or support on behalf of the Individual.

It is best to talk to your local Social Services department when you are putting together the Care Plan to see which options are available in your area and which might be best for your individual circumstances.

Buying care or support with a Personal Budget

Personal Budgets should give people more control over how their needs are met. This includes who provides what care and support, when, and how often. Direct Payments are likely to mean people have more real control, including, if they wish, the opportunity to employ their own paid carer, or having a combination of different people and organisations helping them. If you choose to hire a paid carer yourself, then consider a payroll service to help you manage the payment, payslips and dealings with HMRC. 

On the other hand, allowing the Council to manage it on their behalf is likely to be more straightforward, but the choice and control may be more limited.

In many cases individuals can choose to meet the cost of care through a combination of their Personal Budget and contributions by the individual themselves or their family. This will be probably be easier if the individual takes their Personal Budget in the form of a Direct Payment.

For advice about which option may be best suited to your circumstances you can find more information to help you make your decision here. We can help you with specific queries as well, so please get in touch. You may also be able to find an agency locally who can advise you. In which case contact your local Social Services department.

Personal Budgets are being introduced quite quickly across the country, but in each Local Authority there will be some services that people are judged to need where it is not possible to buy this with a Personal Budget, but where the Council has to pay for it directly. This will be particularly true in the case of care homes, although the government is considering whether to allow Councils to provide Personal Budgets to care home residents as well.

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