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Understanding Personal Budgets

The term 'Personal Budget' means different things to different people, for many it means exactly what it sounds like, their money that they have budgeted, but in terms of Care, the term 'Personal Budget' has developed a specific meaning.

Personal Budgets and Care

Over the last few years there has been a very significant change in the way that Social Services departments provide care; this is part of what is called personalisation. Personal Budgets are a way of giving the service user control over the services that they receive. This means that instead of the Council deciding what services are best for individuals, the service user (with support from their friends, family and/or other professionals) gets to decide what's best for them themselves. To qualify for a Personal Budget a service user must first have been assessed by the Council as having an Eligible Need. You can use our Interactive Wizard for Care to find out if your clients, or potential clients are likely to be eligible in their local area.

If it's easier you can download a paper copy of the Care wizard so that you can sit with you client and fill it in, you can then input it into the wizard at your own convenience. You will need to register to get a copy of the form, but registration is free...

Increasingly if someone is going to get financial support from the Council they will get a personal budget awarded. This is supposed to cover the costs of meeting the needs that the Council has a statutory duty to meet. Each Council will have its own way of calculating how much money someone should receive, but it will also depend on how much money the individual has. Try our Funding Wizard to look at individual circumstances.

The person who is awarded the budget (with support from their friends, family and/or other professionals) will then have to agree with the Council as to how they are going to spend the money; this is often called a Care Plan and you should be working with all your clients to develop their care plan.

Having a Personal Budget does not mean that individuals have to manage the budget themselves or employ people directly.

  • Individuals can choose to manage it themselves if they want, this would mean that the money is paid into a bank account set up specifically to hold the budget and they then spend it themselves in line with the agreed care plan. This is often referred to as a Direct Payment.
  • Individuals can choose to ask the Council to manage the Personal Budget for them. This means that the individual still gets to choose what they receive, often from a list of Council approved providers, but the Council would then arrange and services and spend the money on their behalf.
  • Individuals can choose to take their Direct Payment and give it all directly to a provider to manage. The provider would then set-up a special account for the individual and use it to provide care or support that the individual wanted. They would send regular statements to the Individual so that they knew how much money was left in their account.
  • In certain circumstances the Personal Budget can be paid to another person or organisation that manages the budget, and purchases the care or support on behalf of the Individual.

Buying Care or Support with a Personal Budget

Personal budgets should give people more control over how their needs are met. This includes who provides what care and support, when, and how often. Direct payments are likely to mean people have more real control, including, if they wish, the opportunity to employ their own Paid Carer, or having a combination of different people and organisations helping them.

On the other hand allowing the Council to manage it on their behalf is likely to be more straightforward, but the choice and control may be more limited.

In many cases Individuals may choose to meet the cost of care through a combination of Personal Budget and contributions by the individual themselves or their family. This will be probably be easier if the individual takes their Personal Budget in the form of a Direct Payment.

Personal budgets are being introduced quite quickly across the country, but in each local authority there will be some services that people are judged to need where it is not possible to buy this with a personal budget, but where the Council has to pay for it directly. This will be particularly true in the case of care homes, although the government is considering whether to allow Councils to provide personal budgets to care home residents as well.

Paid carers and those wishing to become a paid carer really need to familiarise themselves with the different approaches to and methods of holding a personal budget so that they can advise their clients. There is lots of information available on this site, and as the site progresses there will be many more tools. One way of finding out information quickly is to take one of our elearning sessions (Coming Soon). 

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