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Personal Budgets and Direct Payments

How you can control how your money is spent

Personal budgets

Some people have had Personal Budgets for health provision, called Personal Health Budgets and for Social Care provision for example for Fair Access to Short Breaks. They may have managed some or all of their Personal Budget directly themselves using a Direct Payment.

However, this is the first time that Personal Budgets have become available for Special Educational Needs provision.

Special Educational Needs Personal Budgets

A Personal Budget for Special Educational Needs is money identified to pay for support written in an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) for a child or young person with special educational needs. It can include money from the local authority for education and social care and also from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for health.

Who can have a Personal Budget

Young people and parents of children who have EHC plans can request a Personal Budget either during the drafting of an EHC plan or once the plan has been issued and is under review.

Young people do not need to have an EHC plan to get Personal Budgets for social and health care, but once they have an EHC plan, or one is being prepared, they can request separate budgets for education, social care and health care.

Young people must have an EHC plan to get a Personal Budget for special educational provision.

However, they do not have to request a Personal Budget if they would prefer not to have one.

A young person with an EHC plan can ask for their own Personal Budget after the end of the school year in which they become 16.

Ways parents and young people can manage a Personal Budget

There are four ways in which a young person or parents of children with an EHC plan can be involved in managing a Personal Budget:

  1. You can take it as a Direct Payment, receiving the cash to buy and manage services yourself, or you can nominate someone you trust.
  2. The Local Authority or Clinical Commissioning Group can manage it for you, organising your or your child’s support.
  3. A third party can manage it for you. For example, the cash can be paid to a service provider, or a local organisation can manage your budget for you.
  4. You can use a combination of these options. For example, the local authority could provide a short break service and speech and language therapy, while you use a direct payment to pay for a personal assistant to support your child to make and meet friends at the local youth club

What you can spend a Personal Budget on

It is important that you feel able to suggest ways to use your child’s budget that are personal to them and your particular family circumstances, as long as it is meeting the agreed outcomes. These are just some examples:

  • Support in your own home, whether it’s equipment or help with personal and domestic activities
  • Equipment to help communication or learning
  • Support for your child to join in with local clubs or activities
  • Sports or cultural activities
  • Short breaks
  • Employing personal assistants
  • Someone to go with you on a daytrip or short break, for example so you have more time for brothers and sisters
  • Work experience or a work-based learning opportunity

Support with Personal Budgets

Parents or a young person with an identified Personal Budget will be offered support from a provider agency where they wish to explore the possibility of requesting a direct payment. The provider agency will be able to support in all aspects including the development, management and administration of provision to meet a child or young person’s needs.

Enham Trust Personal Budget and Direct Payment provider agency support

What happens if a local authority refuses a Personal Budget

Sometimes the local authority or the health authority may not agree to a Personal Budget. If the local authority refuses a Personal Budget for special educational provision it must give the reasons why. Young people and parents cannot appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal over this refusal.

The difference between a Personal Budget and a Direct Payment

A Personal Budget shows what money there is to provide some of the support/service written in an EHC plan, and who provides it. The parent or young person does not actually manage the money directly. Having a Personal Budget means that you know how much money is in the pot.

A Personal Budget can include a Direct Payment if it is agreed that this is the best way to manage part of the Personal Budget.

With a Direct Payment the parent or young person is given the money for some services and manages the money themselves. The parent or young person is responsible for buying the support or service and paying for it.

Advice and Support with Direct Payments

Having a Direct Payment is one way of taking your Personal Budget, but it isn’t the only way and you don’t have to do it on your own.

It is also possible to have a Third Party Arrangement to manage a Direct Payment.

Your Local Authority or Clinical Commissioning Group must explain these options to you and tell you what you can spend your Personal Budget on. They must also tell you about the local organisations that can help and advise you.

For example the local Parent Partnership, in Somerset, this is the SENDIAS Team. Somerset Parent Carer Forum may also be able to help.

What Direct Payments can be used for

You can request Direct Payments from all services.

For social care, local authorities must offer Direct Payments. For education and health care, there are some conditions:

Direct payments can be used for special educational provision in a school or college only if the school or college agree. Local authorities can refuse a Direct Payment for special educational provision if it would make things worse for other children and young people with an EHC plan, or if it would be an inefficient way to pay for services

For health direct payments, there must be agreement about managing risks and a named person who will be responsible for managing the healthcare that’s been agreed in the plan. NHS organisations will also want to ensure value for money.

For further information on Personal Budgets and Direct Payments see:

Making it Personal: A Family Guide to Personalisation, Personal Budgets and Education, Health and Care Plans

Personal Budget and EHC assessment

During the process of an EHC assessment a young person and/or parents will be asked if they would like to consider having a Direct Payment, if they have requested a Personal Budget for the SEN element of the provision identified in the plan.

This request can also be made through the annual review for children and young people with existing EHC plans, or as part of the conversion process for children and young people with statements changing to EHC plans.

It is not necessary to have an EHC plan to have a Personal Health Budget or Personal Care Budget or request a Direct Payment from these budgets.

Where there is already a Personal Budget or Direct Payment for provision of health or social care support, or a Personal Budget is identified in the EHC assessment; this is an opportunity to integrate the support provided by each agency.

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