Direct payments are local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust payments for people who have been assessed as needing help from social services and, would like to arrange and pay for their own care and support services instead of receiving them directly from the local trust.
A person must be able to give their consent to receiving direct payments and be able to manage them even if they need help to do this on a day-to-day basis.
If you already receive social services
Your local trust is obliged to offer you the option of direct payments in place of the services you currently receive. There are some limited circumstances where you are not given this choice and your local trust will be able to tell you about these.
If you're not receiving social services
To get direct payments you'll need to contact your local trust to ask them to assess your needs. Direct payments are normally available if you:
- have been assessed as needing services under health and personal social services legislation
- have a disability and are aged 16 or over (including disabled parents)
- are a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a child with disabilities
- are an older person
If you've been refused social services
If your local trust has decided that you do not need social care services, it will not offer you direct payments. If you think your needs or circumstances have now changed, ask your local trust for a new assessment.
How much you will get
The amount you receive will depend on the assessment your local trust makes of your needs.
How it's paid
Direct payments are made directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings' account. If you need someone who cares for you to collect your money, or you are registered blind, payment can be made by sending a cheque which can be cashed at the Post Office.
How to apply for direct payments locally
If you already get services, ask your local trust about direct payments.
If you are applying for services for the first time, your social worker should discuss the direct payments option with you when they assess your care needs.
The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local trust website where you can find out more.
What you can use direct payments for
The money is for you to use to pay for the services or equipment which will meet the needs the local trust has assessed you as having.
As a general principle, trusts should aim to leave you to choose how best to meet your assessed needs. This is as long as they are satisfied that the agreed support arrangements made are being met.
What you can't use direct payments for
You cannot use direct payments to:
- pay for permanent residential accommodation - but you may be able to use direct payments to secure occasional short periods in residential accommodation, if your local trust agrees that is what is needed
- secure a service from your spouse or civil partner, close relatives or anyone who lives in the same household as you, unless that person is someone you have specifically recruited to be a live-in employee (other than in exceptional circumstances, which your trust may agree with you)
If you receive direct payments, you'll need to account for the money you spend. Your local trust will tell you what records you need to keep and what information you'll be expected to provide. These include timesheets signed by personal assistants, or receipts for services from agencies.
The trust will have to satisfy itself that the needs for which it is giving you direct payments are being met. They should tell you how they will go about this. This may involve a visit to your home.
Carers and direct payments
If you are a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a child with disabilities, you may be eligible for direct payments.
However, you cannot use direct payments to buy services for the person you care for. They can only be spent on getting the support you, as a carer, have been assessed as needing.
Effect on other benefits
Direct payments are not a replacement of income and therefore do not affect any other benefits you may be receiving.
What to do if your circumstances change
If your social services needs change
If your needs change, contact your local trust as soon as possible so that they can reassess the level of payments you require. It doesn't matter whether the changes are long-term or short-term.
For example, if you don't need to spend the full amount because your condition improves temporarily, or you go into hospital, your payments may need to be adjusted.
If you don't want to continue with direct payments
If you decide you don't want to continue, the local trust will arrange services instead. If the trust decides you cannot manage with direct payments, it might decide to stop making direct payments and provide services instead.
The Department of Health has published information booklets about direct payments.
You can download them at the following links or you can order them by phone.
- Direct Payments guidance
- phone: 028 9052 2910
If you have a query about your own situation, your local HSC Trust is the best place to start. Each trust implements direct payments in its own way. They will also be able to put you in touch with local support services.