Self-directed Support : my support, my choice: your guide to social care

A guide to help you if you are getting social care support or if you are thinking of getting support

Option 1

"I get the money to spend on support I choose"

What is option 1?

Option 1 is often called a direct payment. It is a payment made to you with which you can buy support. You can do this on your own or you can get help from family, friends and support organisations.

How can it help me?

You might want to take control of the money spent on your support for many reasons. It might be because you find the social care support that is arranged by your council isn't quite right for you. Maybe the support workers come at times that do not suit you or you don't always get the same members of staff.

Another reason might be that you want to pay for something that the council does not normally provide. Or you just might like being in charge of how the money is spent on your support.

What can I use the money for?

You can use it in any way you like as long as you can agree with the professional working with you that the support you buy is the same as what is in your support plan.

Many people use direct payments to employ a carer (called a Personal Assistant) directly. Others use it to buy services from a care provider organisation. Some people use it to take part in hobbies and activities that they enjoy.

Here are some examples of what people spend their direct payments on:

  • employing one or more Personal Assistants (PAs)
  • buying support from a service provider
  • buying short breaks or respite care
  • buying equipment or adaptations to your home
  • help to attend activities, education or employment, like going to a social club, college or work

I want to use my direct payment to employ Personal Assistants. What do I need to know?

If you are thinking of using a direct payment to employ a personal assistant (PA) you should read the Personal Assistant Employer's Handbook at:

Employing a PA can give you support that suits you best because you can choose who comes into your home and exactly what they do to support you.

If you choose to employ a PA, there are some things the law says you have to do, for example, when you are interviewing potential staff or setting up payroll arrangements. There is lots of support available to help you do this. You can get support from the professional working with you and local support organisations to help you manage this.

Stuart's story

My name is Stuart and I live in a small village in the Lothians. I have multiple sclerosis (MS) and I have been managing my own direct payment for almost 2 years now. I previously received a service from an agency, however, they were going through some changes and unfortunately they had to make some of their workers redundant and this included my regular carer. I was told about direct payments by my social worker, and I decided I would go for it, so I could employ my old carer from the agency who I had a good working relationship with. It all seemed a little daunting to begin with, but I had a meeting with my social worker and an Independent Living Officer (ILO) from my local support organisation who explained how the direct payment could be used and what my responsibilities would be if I decided to become an employer of my own Personal Assistants.

My local support organisation supported me to get everything in place before I started to employ my own PA. They helped me get set up with payroll, organise contracts of employment and decide on a suitable rate of pay for my PA. They advised me to make sure I reserved enough funding to cover my costs such as holiday and sick pay, things I never knew I had to consider. Once I got set up, and I used the payroll service a couple of times, I was in full swing of managing my own direct payment. I found a second PA who could work for me as relief. This meant that I had the security knowing that I had back up if my first PA was ever off sick or needed a holiday. I could also use an agency at the same time to cover any gaps.

Over the last two years I have had to recruit PAs on a couple of occasions. Whenever I need to advertise, I contact the support organisation who organise everything for me. We look at my job description and advert to make sure it covers everything I need. Because I now have a mobility car, I look for people who have a driving license so I can use my PA to go to the shops or visit friends. My ILO takes away all the hassle from recruiting. They keep me right by making sure I keep in line with employment law guidelines. Whenever I have a problem, I know I can just call the support organisation and they will be able to advise me on what to do. Even when it's something I've dealt with before it's always good to know I can just call and reassure myself that what I'm doing is right. I send my timesheets into payroll every month and they do all the calculations for tax, holiday pay, sick pay… everything really. I don't think I would still be managing my direct payment as well as I am if I didn't have this help.

Last year, I received additional funding into my direct payment to use for respite. I had tried traditional respite before, but it just wasn't for me. I used to book in for a week but ended up going back home early so I wasn't getting the full use of it. I was lucky to have an understanding social worker who suggested we apply for my respite as a direct payment. With getting the respite funding paid into my direct payment account, it meant I could choose to go somewhere completely different for a break. I decided to rent self-catering accommodation just south of the border. The accommodation was completely accessible and really affordable. My PA came with me for the weekend and I had a lovely break and I really felt like I completely got away from it all.

To me this means I can arrange my support to suit my own needs. If I'm not feeling well one day and I need more support I can call my PA and ask them to work a longer shift to give me an extra hand. I also feel in more control of my life - I arrange rotas around my personal life so I can get out to socialise and do the things I want to do when I want to do them.

It's important for me to have staff who I trust and can build a good relationship with and my direct payment has allowed me to achieve this. I couldn't have done it without all the support I have had from my support organisation. You never feel alone knowing you have an experienced advice service behind you. Having a direct payment has been fantastic for me. I really believe it has given me my independence back.

I want to use my direct payment to buy services. What do I need to know?

You don't have to use your direct payment to employ someone. Many people use a direct payment to buy services from a provider organisation. One of the good things about a direct payment is that the provider organisation works for you, not the council.

Help is available to work out the arrangements. You can work with the professional working with you, your local support organisation and the provider.

John's story

John is 20 and from birth was diagnosed with a learning disability and epilepsy. From the age of nine John received a service from a provider which was funded by the council's children's services department.

This outreach service supported John and his other family members to participate in events within their own community.

When John moved to the council's adult services department he learned they did not buy outreach support from the provider that had been supporting him. However John and his mother both wanted him to continue using this support.

John's mother took the opportunity to agree a direct payment arrangement with the council and with this she purchased the same outreach support that John had been receiving for years.

This support provided John with much needed continuity with the opportunity to continue participating in activities within his local community. It also allowed that provider to support John's move into adult services because they had worked with him for a long time and knew him well.

The direct payment option gave John and his mother a lot of flexibility in buying services that still met the outcomes set out for John in his care plan.

What will I have to do?

You will need to keep records because the money comes from the council and they will need to know it is being spent on your support. Your council will ask you to set up a separate bank account for the payments to go into and they will ask you to provide regular statements showing how you spent the money.

Will the council check how I spend the money?

Your council will need to be sure that you are getting the support you need. There are different ways of checking this, but the council should tell you how they are going to check how you spend the money.

Who can get and manage the direct payment?

You can get support to manage the payment yourself from a support organisation. If you don't want to manage the payment yourself you can get someone you trust to manage the payment on your behalf, as long as you are still making the decisions on how it is spent. This could be a relative or friend or a provider organisation or someone in the council.

Can I employ a family member?

Yes, but the professional working with you would have to agree it is right that you should employ them. The professional will only agree if he or she thinks that employing a family member will help you to meet your needs.

The professional working with you will not allow the family member to be employed if they think that he or she is forcing you to agree to this arrangement. Nor will they allow the family member to be employed if they are the one managing the payment because they have guardianship or power of attorney.

Can I purchase residential care?

No. Your council will not let you purchase long-term residential care - meaning any stay over four weeks. But if your assessment says you need residential care, your council should give you a choice of where you want to stay.

Can the council refuse to give me a direct payment?

Your council might not offer you the option of a direct payment if your safety is at risk for any reason, such as if you need to get away from being abused by a family member.

Otherwise you will be offered option 1. But remember that the council can refuse to give you a direct payment to buy support that you have chosen if they think it will not meet your support needs. For children, the council must be sure that the support bought will protect the welfare of the child before it will agree to it. (See 'When can the council refuse my choice of support?').

Is it like a benefit?

No. Usually when you get a benefit it is up to you to spend it as you please. But the money given to you for social care must be spent to help you meet your support needs.

Does it affect my entitlement to benefits?

No. A direct payment will not affect how your income is assessed for benefits or for tax purposes.


Email: Hetaher Palmer

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