Here to help with questions relating to learning disability and its impact on family carers
“This article is designed to complement the series of articles we have published in recent issues of Resnews on the Care Act and has been compiled after looking at the excellent resources provided by Disability Rights UK.
What is it and who gets it – A personal budget is an agreed amount of money that is allocated to you personally by your local council following an assessment of your care and support needs. This is support that you decide and control, in other words you control the money for your care and support. In order to get a personal budget your council needs to work out your entitlement for public funded care and support, once it is agreed that you have eligible needs, the council will inform you about your personal budget that forms your care and support plan. A personal budget can give you the choice, flexibility and control as you can see how much money is available to pay for the care you need. Your local authority must inform you how they calculated your budget and ensure that it is enough to meet your needs by considering the local cost for services that you require. You must be notified of what your budget is in good time, so that you can plan your support.
Receiving and using your personal budget – There are different ways to receive a personal budget and you can decide as part of your care and support plan what will work best for you. You can opt for direct payments – this is where the money is paid into a bank account held by either yourself or a person nominated by you which you utilize to buy your own support. You can have an account which is managed by the council known as indirect payments – the council manages the account and commissions services on your behalf. The third alternative is an Individual Service Fund (ISF) – the local authority pays an organisation that provides support services. This organisation is answerable to you and you have a say about how services are provided. You could have a mixture of all three options. You can buy various types of support services with your personal budget funding as follows:
To recruit staff as personal assistants (PA’s) or buy care and support services from care agencies to help you meet your needs in your own home.
Short stays in a care home or respite care.
Accessing a wide range of local community social and educational activities and mainstream services such as sports, day trips, leisure or learning and education centres.
To purchase particular aids and equipment that you require and are stated in your support plan as an outcome that needs to be met to promote your independence, you cannot use direct payments to buy equipment already provided by the NHS.
To pay towards transport costs to undertake a variety of outdoor activities identified in your care and support plan.
Attending day services and going to day centres.
Managing your support – your local authority worker will provide you with relevant information about the different options available for you to manage your money. Each local authority has different systems in place and it is important that you find out what is available in your area.
Your local authority can manage your personal budget on your behalf, they keep the money that has been allocated to you and arrange services on your behalf. You can also ask the local authority to manage part of your budget and organise the rest in a different way.
You can choose to manage your own budget as a direct payment. This is a cash payment that the local authority will pay into a bank account opened by you, specifically for your personal budget. Most banks will offer a basic account for this purpose. The account should have no other funds credited to it unless you have agreed to pay contributions for social care (this is agreed at the care planning stage) or receive other public funding. Choosing to take your allocated personal budget means you have greater choice and control, but you will have further responsibilities as well. You will have to provide the local authority with information about how you spend your personal budget and you may be asked to send them a report every four weeks, quarterly or annually depending on you council’s policy. If you do not feel confident about undertaking these responsibilities yourself you can choose to have a nominated person – family member or employed personal assistant to undertake this duty for you. The nominated person would be in charge of making all the payments from the bank account for the services you choose to purchase.
In some local authorities you can have a managed account, this is when your allocated personal budget is paid to an organisation on your behalf. This is referred to as a third party payment. You may have chosen to employ a personal assistant or contract with a domiciliary care agency, you will still take the responsibility as an employer and the third party will process any payments. Third parties will charge for providing this service, and you will need to sign a contract which will set out details such as how payments are authorised and paid e.g. bank transfer or cheque, and what records you need to keep.
Where a person lacks capacity a “Suitable Person” can be appointed by the local authority to receive a direct payment and manage the money, this person is likely to be family or close friend and in many cases will hold lasting power of attorney or have been appointed a deputy by the court of protection under the mental capacity act. Another option if a person lacks capacity would be an “Independent Living Trust”, this is where a trust is set up for a small group of people and personal budgets are pooled and paid into the trusts bank account for better purchasing options. The trust would be run by at least three trustees who would take responsibility for the best interests of the beneficiaries.
A user controlled trust is similar to an independent living trust but the recipient of the services is also a trustee. The user’s choice and preference direct the decision making and the user retains control and is accountable for the arrangements.
Individual Service Funds (ISF) are available in some local authorities, but you would need to check if this option is applicable in your area. The ISF is where a provider manages a person’s personal budget in addition to providing the direct support. A contract is arranged between the provider and the local authority, although this can also be a three-way contract including the recipient. The provider is responsible for ensuring the personal budget is spent on the recipients personal requirements and reflects the support plan.
Prepayment Cards – A small number of local authorities have introduced prepayment cards. This is where a person’s direct payments are loaded onto the card which is then used to pay for services. The local authority can monitor spend on the cards so it removes the need to keep receipts and report forms. The card looks like a credit card and works in a similar way, although you can only spend the funds that have been transferred to it. This may be a solution for people who have struggled to open a bank account or who don’t want to have a separate bank account. Your local authority will load the card with the money that you have been allocated and will receive regular statements to ensure the money is being spent appropriately. You will generally only be able to use your prepayment card at outlets that display that the card is acceptable, so please check that you can use the card to make payments for the services you require.
There is a lot of information to take on board when considering personal budgets and this is only a very brief guide, please contact the Rescare office on 0161 474 7323 or look at our website for more help and advice.”