The Care Act introduced a new function upon councils to focus on promoting wellbeing and prevention including offering personal budgets, establishing information services and arranging independent advocacy services.
Your entitlement to personal budgets
With the implementation of the Care Act, there is now a duty upon councils to produce a care and support plan and offer a personal budget. For the first time in law, local authorities have a legal obligation to offer personal budgets and conduct care and support planning that where previously stated only in guidance as part of the personalisation agenda. This is an important change as it enables people to have maximum control over how their needs are met.
What is a personal budget?
A personal budget is an agreed amount of money that is allocated to you personally by your local council
following an assessment of you care and support needs. This is support that you decide and control, in other words you control the money for your care and support. A personal budget is a statement of the amount of money needed to meet your eligible social care needs. It allows you to control the financial resources for your support and the way the support is provided to you.
A personal budget is a route to achieving independent living. It enables you to achieve your outcomes stated in your personalised care and support planning
How a personal budget can change your life
Personal budget promotes flexibility, choice, control and quality of life. It aims to give those using social care and health services the ability to take charge of the support they require. To live independently and be in control of the care they choose that best meets their needs. Via the personal budget, you are empowered to live the life you choose by seeing how much money is available to buy the care you need:
- Inform you how they calculated your personal budget
- Ensure that the budget is sufficient to meet your need
- Consider the local cost for the type of serviced you require, and that care may cost more if your needs are complex
- Notify you of what your budget is in good time, so you can start planning your support once you know the funds are available
Receiving and using personal budget
Once you have been assessed as being eligible for a personal budget there are number of forms you can take your payment:
- Direct Payments – your local authority pays some or all your personal budget funding into your
bank account or a separate account held by a person (e.g. third agent, support broker) nominated by
you. You utilise direct payments to buy your own support
- Managed Account (indirect payments) – your local authority will manage your budget and will
commission services on your behalf
- Individual Service Funds – your local authority pays an organisation that provides support services and follow instructions to get the services you need. The organisation will be answerable to you. You will have a say about how the services are provided to you.
- Personal health budget – for those funded by a clinical commissioning group (CCG), you’ll have the option to a personal health budget.
Using your personal budget
You can buy from providers various types of support services with your personal budget funding to meet your care and support needs outlined in your support plan. You can utilise your budget as below:
- To recruit staff as personal assistants (PA’s) or buy care and support services from care agencies (e.g. MiHomecare) to help you meet your eligible and assessed needs in your own home for instance with your personal care, social needs, pursing indoor/outdoor activities or be part of the local community.
- Short stays in a care home or respite care
- Accessing a wide range of local community social and education activities and mainstream services such as being involved in sports, horse riding, day trips, going to clubs and leisure or leaning centres and education sessions.
- To purchase particular aids and equipment (not provider by NHS) that you require and are state din 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 NHS
- To pay towards transport costs to undertake a variety of outdoor activities (or attending day centres) identified in your care and support plan
Managing your own personal budget is when you decide to take your budget as a direct payment. This is a
payment that the local authority will arrange make into a bank account open by you, specifically to receive the personal budget.
The account should have no other funds credited unless it is agreed for example your own contribution or other public funding. The payment that the local authority makes into your bank account could be weekly, four weekly, monthly or otherwise. It is critical you understand when your payments are made so you can arrange appropriate payment to any services accessed.
Following a financial assessment, you may have to contribution towards your direct payment to receive the support and care you require.
You may not want the responsibility of managing the money yourself. You may have a friend or family member or someone you trust that is willing and able to open a bank account on your behalf, this is called a “nominated person”. The nominated person would oversee making all the payments from the bank account for the services you opt to purchase.
In some local authority areas, you may have the option to be able to use the service of a supported or managed account. This is sometimes referred to as a 3 rd party payment. In many cases, Disabled People User Led Organisation (DPULOs) provider this type of service. The organisation will arrange to make all the payments for the services you are receiving.
Choosing to take your allocated personal budget means you will have greater choice and control, but you will have further responsibilities as well. You will have to provider the local authority with information how you spend your personal budget, and you make me asked to report to them every four weeks, quarterly or annually depending on each local authorities’ policy.
Local Authority Managed Personal Budget
Your local authority can manage your personal budget on your behalf. They simply keep the money that has been allocated to you that have been agreed through your support plan. If you choose this local authority managed account, the local authority is responsible for arranging service for you. However, you support should still be personalised to meet your requirements.
Additionally, you can request from your local authority to manage part of your personal budget and ask to organise to manage the remainder of your budget in a different way.
If you are financial assessment requires you to make a contribution towards your care and support you will receive an invoice from your local authority with your contribution value.
Individual Service Funds (ISF)
Individual Service Funds (ISF) are still not available in all local authorities’ areas. An ISF offers the individual the choice and control as well as avoiding the need for people managing the financial aspect of their care and support.
The ISF is where a care provider “managers” a person’s personal budget in addition to providing the direct support. A contract or agreement is often arranged between the provider and the commissioning local authority, however, the contract or agreement may also be a “three way” contract involving the person who is going to receive the services. The provider is responsible for ensuring the personal budget is spend on the individual’s personal requirements and reflects the support plan.
It may be that the provider holding the funds also makes payments to other provider but contracting separately with them for service on behalf of the person receiving the services. Any example of this would be where a provider pays for a gym membership or group activity for the ISF on behalf of the individual receiving the services. The ISF holder however is responsible to the commissioning local authority and needs to ensure and open and transparent account system.