Find out what a personal budget is, who can receive one, how a personal budget can be used and how it is managed (including the direct payments option).
What is a personal budget?
A personal budget is money provided by your local authority to meet your care and support needs. To get a personal budget, the local authority will carry out a needs assessment to decide if you are eligible for care and support. They will also decide whether you will need to contribute to the cost of your care.
Who pays for care?
Read our information on paying for care and support in England.
Personal budgets are used in England, but in Wales and Northern Ireland there are different systems in place.
How can I get a personal budget?
Get an assessment
A GP or another health and social care professional may request an assessment on your behalf. If not, you can request an assessment by contacting the local authority's social services department.
The focus of the assessment will be on what support you may need with day-to-day activities. However, they should also consider your living arrangements, your health, what things you enjoy doing and what things you want to do in the future (also called your desired outcomes).
The local authority will also ask about your financial situation. If you have eligible care needs but you can fully fund your own care and support, you are known as a self-funder.
Personal budgets are not a replacement of income. They are not part of taxable income and they do not affect any other benefits.
Estimating the size of a personal budget
The local authority will look at your needs and outcomes to estimate the size of the personal budget (this is sometimes called an indicative budget). If there are several ways to achieve an outcome, the local authority may agree to fund only the least expensive option.
For example, if you want a walk-in shower because you are struggling with washing, the local authority may suggest a cheaper solution. If you want the more expensive option, you may be able to 'top up' the payment yourself to meet the extra costs.
Making a care and support plan
The next step is for you to make a care and support plan that shows how the money will achieve your outcomes. This step will often include help from a social worker or other professional, such as a broker or professional support planner.
The plan should also explain how the budget will be managed and what will happen in difficult times (for example, if a care worker is sick).
Getting the care plan agreed
The plan is then approved by the local authority, usually by a social worker or social care worker. Other local authority staff may also have to agree. 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.
Finalising the budget and organising money
Once an agreement is reached, a final budget can be set. This may or may not be the same as the estimate you first received, but it must still be enough to meet your assessed needs. The money will then be paid.
How are personal budgets managed?
Find out more about how personal budgets can be managed.
Reviewing a care and support plan
The local authority should review the 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. You can request a review at any time if your situation changes or you need more support.
What if I disagree with the amount of money in my personal budget allocation?
If you feel that the amount of money does meet your needs, speak to your social worker or care manager and ask them to explain their decision in writing. You might want to involve a support worker to help you.
If the decision still feels 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 local authority and ask them about it.
The same process can be followed if the local authority does not agree with what you want to spend your budget on.
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