Direct payments in Northern Ireland – FAQs
Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about direct payments in Northern Ireland.
Direct payments in Northern Ireland
For many people, the prospect of managing direct payments, particularly if this means becoming an employer, can be daunting. However, there are a range of information and support services available that can help you with direct payments.
The HSC trust should support you to manage your direct payments. Your social worker or other support worker will be able to tell you about local advocacy, information and services that can help you with your direct payments.
The Centre for Independent Living can also provide reassurance, support and independent advice on matters relating to direct payments, including referral, assessment, finding staff and managing money. For more information see Other resources.
If you don’t agree with the amount allocated for your direct payment, speak to your social worker or someone from the local HSC trust. The direct payment must be enough to meet your needs. If you feel that it isn’t, the trust must show how they expect you to meet your needs with this amount of money. You might want to involve an advocate or support worker to help you.
If, after talking to the social worker or trust, you still feel the decision is unfair, you can make a formal complaint. You should have been told about the complaints procedure when you had the assessment. If not, contact your social worker or trust and ask them about it.
If you don’t spend all of your direct payment, you should speak to the HSC trust. The money should only be used to meet your assessed needs. So if your needs are already met and you haven’t used all the money, you can’t use the remaining money for anything else. The trust may reduce your direct payment if this is the case, but they should first speak to you to ensure that your needs are being properly met.
Sometimes you may not need to use your budget for a short amount of time. For example, if you are in hospital or on holiday you may not be paying for services. If this happens, you should also speak to the trust. They may claim back the money that has not been used, as this cannot be used for anything else. But they shouldn’t change your direct payment because of any short-term change in your circumstances.
Direct payments are not a replacement for income. They are not part of taxable income and they do not affect any other benefits.
If you are not happy with something the HSC trust does, you should first contact your social worker, care manager or key worker. If they cannot sort things out, you can complain to the trust. Each trust has leaflets available on how to do this.
Complaints about agency workers or employees should be taken up with the service provider.