Getting a personal budget

Read the various steps you need to take in order to get a personal budget for either a carer or person living with dementia. 

Who can get a personal budget?

If a person is found to have a need for social care, and they meet certain eligibility criteria, the local authority will allocate an amount of money – a personal budget – to meet their needs. It is possible for both people with dementia and carers to receive personal budgets. However, depending on your income and savings, you may have to make some contribution to the cost of your care.

For more information about financial eligibility, see Paying for care.

How to get a personal budget

There are a series of steps you need to follow in order to get a personal budget.

Step 1: Getting a needs assessment

The first step is to request a needs assessment from your local authority. Your GP or another health and social care professional may request an assessment on your behalf. If not, you can request it yourself by contacting your local authority’s social services department. (This may be called different things in different areas, such as Adult services.)

The local authority has a duty to provide an assessment for anyone if it appears they may have care and support needs. This is true regardless of your financial situation, so you can get an assessment even if you end up paying for your own care. If you think you need care and support, you should do this as it will help you to identify how best to meet your needs.

During the assessment you will be asked about your living arrangements, your health, what things you can and can’t do, as well as what you enjoy doing. You will also be asked what things you can’t do now but want to be able to do (your desired outcomes) and what kind of care and support you think you need to achieve that.

The local authority will also ask about your financial situation. This is to work out whether you will need to contribute towards the cost of your care. If you are found to have eligible care needs but the financial assessment shows that you are able to fully fund your own care and support, you are known as a ‘self-funder’. Your local authority should still support you to find what help and support you need to achieve your outcomes, and how you might go about getting it.

For more information see Assessment for care and support in England.

Step 2: Estimating the size of a personal budget

If the local authority has decided that you qualify to receive support, it will then work out how much getting that support is likely to cost. It will look at your needs and your outcomes and estimate the size of the personal budget you require (sometimes called an ‘indicative budget’). This can then be used to develop your support plan.

If you receive your personal budget as a direct payment, the costs of any support services to help you to manage it should be included in the personal budget amount. If you need paid carers who must have training to carry out their role (for example, lifting and handling), the training costs must also be included in the budget.

If there are a number of ways to achieve a particular outcome, the local authority may agree to fund only the least expensive option. For example, if you struggle with washing, you may want a walk-in shower, but the local authority may suggest a cheaper solution. If you want the expensive option, you may be able to ‘top up’ the payment yourself to meet the extra cost.

Step 3: Making a care and support plan

Once you have an estimate of the size of the personal budget, the next step is to make a plan for how you will use the money. You can complete this yourself, either on your own or with support from other people you know such as friends or family.

This step will often include help from a social worker or other professional (for example, a broker or a professional support planner). For more on brokers see Information and support.

The care and support plan should show how you your personal budget will be used to achieve your outcomes. It should also explain how you will manage the personal budget. It will also look at how you will stay safe and well, and manage difficult times (for example, if a care worker is sick or if your needs change unexpectedly).

Step 4: Getting the plan agreed

The next step is getting the plan approved by the local authority. Typically a social worker or social care worker will check that the plan will meet your identified eligible needs. Other local authority staff may also have to agree to the plan. This often happens if a care plan is very complicated, includes unusual ways of meeting a need, or if it costs more than the estimated amount. This can take a little longer.

Step 5: Finalising the budget and organising money

Once an agreement is reached about how you can achieve your outcomes, a final budget amount can be set. This may or may not be the same as the estimate you first received.

The money will then be paid to you or to someone you’ve chosen to manage it for you, or will be held by the local authority, depending on how you have chosen to manage your personal budget.

Reviewing a care and support plan

The local authority must keep care and support plans under review. They should review your plan at least every year, but it can vary from place to place. The local authority must check that you are safe and well, whether your care needs have changed, and whether your personal budget is being used appropriately – so that it meets your eligible needs and allows you to achieve your desired outcomes.

You can request a review at any time if there have been changes to your situation or if you need more support, though this won’t always happen straight away.