Social care - self-directed support: framework of standards - May 2024

This framework consists of a set of standards for local authorities to provide them with an overarching structure, aligned to legislation and statutory guidance, for further implementation of the self-directed support approach to social care. This update includes standard descriptor and practice statement and core components and practice guidance.

Standard 12: Access to budgets and flexibility of spend

Standard descriptor: Children, young people, families, supported people and carers have flexibility and choice in how budgets are spent to meet their agreed personal outcomes. Available funding is allocated in a way that is transparent, fair, equitable and sufficient for all individuals and across all communities.

Practice statement: Local authorities and partnerships have clear and fair systems, and transparent and accessible processes in place to involve people in developing their budgets. Budgets are calculated and expressed in a way which demonstrates that outcomes will be met for all individuals in a fair and equitable way, taking account of strengths, assets and community resources available. Practitioners support and set personal budgets within agreed delegated parameters.

Core Components and practice guidance

12.1 Children, young people, families, supported people and carers are informed and involved in decisions about how budgets are agreed, allocated, reviewed and spent.

How to:

  • Make finance processes as transparent and easy to use as possible so that children, young people, families, supported people and carers are as fully informed as possible.
  • People are given as much involvement as they wish, or as is possible depending on age and circumstances, in the development of plans and when budgets are agreed, allocated and reviewed.
  • Acknowledge that individuals have the right to choose not to be involved in discussions about their budgets, but make sure that opportunities to allow them to be included have been explored and are revisited at the point of review.
  • The person’s practitioner is involved in financial decisions made about their budget allocation, including having delegated authority to access budgets up to agreed levels, budget allocation and any changes to budget amount/spend.

12.2 People are told the relevant amount or indicative budget available to achieve their personal outcomes for each Self-directed Support option.

How to:

  • This is underpinned by a fair and equitable assessment process, a shared understanding of the resources available, and how the budget is held by, or on behalf of, the person.
  • In certain circumstances, it may not be appropriate to calculate indicative budgets for each option if there is concern that it would put the safety of the person at risk, or in a time of acute crisis.
  • It is important to take account of a person’s wishes and to respect their decisions, including when they choose not to be involved in discussions about their budgets.
  • Organisational systems and processes need to be aligned so that practitioners have delegated authority to access budgets for individuals, up to an agreed level.
  • Systems and processes align with workers’ statutory duties and bureaucracy is minimised for workers and for individuals managing their budgets.
  • Decisions about budgets should be taken in a timely manner, and communicated swiftly, minimising delays in the provision of support, with timescales being set and monitored.
  • Local authorities should have clear procedures for how each person’s financial contributions are calculated and made. A clear distinction is made between chargeable and non-chargeable supports.
  • Financial assessments consider the person’s circumstances and the impact of charging and contributions policies where these apply, and this is explained clearly to the person, family or carers.
  • The method by which a budget is calculated is transparent and is understood by people and by workers.

12.3 Budget spend should be fair, proportionate, legal, equitable and auditable, and necessary for meeting agreed personal outcomes.

How to:

  • The budget allocated under the chosen Self-directed Support option should be sufficient to meet agreed outcomes identified in the assessment.
  • Personal budgets can be spent in any way that is legal and that is related to meeting agreed personal outcomes.
  • Personal budgets cannot be invested to generate income.
  • The personal budgets of more than one supported person may be pooled to meet their collective personal outcomes.
  • Allowable spend is not limited to purchasing traditional ‘on framework’ commissioned and contracted services.
  • Where budgets are being used by a supported person to employ Personal Assistants, they should be adequate to enable the supported person to be a good employer and to be able to recruit, retain, train and support their Personal Assistants.

12.4 People can be flexible about how they spend budgets to meet their agreed personal outcomes.

How to:

  • Social work practitioners should encourage and support people to think creatively and flexibly in how their budgets can be spent.
  • People can be flexible about spending different amounts of money each week and at different times of the year, within agreed limits.
  • At their request, people have flexibility to move between Self-directed Support options. For Personal Assistant employers, changing support options has legal and contractual implications and Personal Assistant employers have access to the relevant advice.
  • Systems should support flexible spending.
  • Processes for administering budgets are transparent, efficient and minimise bureaucracy while meeting statutory requirements for monitoring and best value. Issues in relation to administration must be resolved in a timely and compassionate manner to avoid stress and breakdown of trust.

12.5 Local authorities and partnerships balance their duty to meet outcomes and give flexibility of spend with their duty to ensure budgets are spent appropriately.

How to:

  • Leaders ensure that there is collaboration between finance colleagues and social work practitioners that supports a realistic risk-enabled approach to managing personal budgets.
  • Any change to a person’s budget should have a sound rationale which is clearly communicated to them via their social work practitioner.
  • Recoupment from a person’s budget should not be undertaken without the person being consulted, potentially through a review or reassessment. This should take account of bills yet to be paid, or challenges recruiting personal assistants or securing provider support services.

12.6 Local authorities can administer health budgets if the cost is transferred from the NHS to the local authority.

How to:

  • NHS funds can be incorporated into a person’s Direct Payment or Option 2.
  • NHS funding transfer may provide flexibility when a young person is transitioning to adult services.
  • All systems and processes across organisations must be streamlined to reduce bureaucracy and to minimise delays.

12.7 There is mutual understanding of the roles and responsibilities across social work, finance, audit, legal, commissioning and procurement to ensure that people have maximum flexibility to use their budget in the way that they choose, to achieve their agreed outcomes.

How to:

  • Leaders create and support collaborative working relationships between social work and professionals in finance, audit, legal, commissioning and procurement to achieve mutual understanding of the roles and responsibilities each has to ensure that people have choice and flexibility in using their budgets.

12.8 Finance, audit, legal, commissioning and procurement processes align with SDS values and practice, enabling worker autonomy and allowing for fairness and parity.

How to:

  • Leaders ensure that finance, audit, legal, commissioning and procurement processes align with SDS values and practice, enabling worker autonomy and allowing for fairness and parity across all SDS options. Feedback from supported people is included in the review of finance and audit processes.



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