Northern Ireland: Personal budgets and direct payments

Find out how direct payments work in Northern Ireland and how you can apply for them. 

Personal budgets and direct payments in Northern I
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What are direct payments?

Direct payments are cash payments given by health and social care (HSC) trusts to individuals who need community care services. To receive a direct payment, a person must have been assessed as needing services, and the payment must be used to purchase the services that the person is assessed as needing. 

Payments may be made to carers and to people with health conditions, including dementia. Trusts may arrange some services for a person as well as making direct payments to them.

Direct payments do not give people an automatic right to a service. If the trust has a waiting list of people seeking a particular service, those wishing to pay using direct payments will still have to join this list.

Who can get direct payments?

Direct payments are available to a range of people (including disabled people, older people, those with enduring mental health issues and carers) who are over the age of 16 and have been assessed as needing certain services. Any person who receives direct payments must be willing and able to manage them – that is, look after the cash, find appropriate services and make payments (alone or with assistance).

Alzheimer's Society believes that if a person with dementia would prefer to use the direct payments system, then they should be supported to do so.

How can a person get direct payments in Northern Ireland?

A person with dementia or a carer can request a direct payment by contacting their local trust and asking for an assessment. Details for your local trust can be found in your local telephone directory, at your GP surgery, or through Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. A social worker, care manager or social care assessor will then visit to discuss and assess the kind of support needed.

It can be helpful to write a list of the types of support needed before the assessment takes place – for example, a person may need help with cooking, eating, bathing and dressing. Keeping a diary for a week before the assessment can help to build this list.

If a direct payment is offered, the amount will be based on the number of hours of services needed, multiplied by an hourly rate. The hourly rates vary across the five HSC trusts in Northern Ireland. The rate offered by a trust may be higher or lower than the actual hourly fee required to pay for a particular service.

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