Personal budgets

3. Getting a personal budget

A personal budget is an allocation of money given by a local authority to someone who has had their care needs assessed. This assessment can come about in a number of different ways. If a person is found to have a need for social care, and they meet certain financial eligibility criteria, a personal budget is allocated to meet their needs. Not everyone will be eligible: their needs may not be great enough, or they may have too much money to qualify for local authority funding. 

If a person is eligible, there are a series of steps to follow in order to reach agreement on a personal budget. These are outlined below.

Step 1: Finding out how much money the person is likely to get

The first step is to find out if the person can get money for support - and how much. The local authority looks at the person's care needs and decides on an indicative (estimated) personal budget the person would require to meet these needs. This can then be used to inform the development of the support plan.

Step 2: Making a care and support plan

The second step is to make a plan about how the money will be used to best support the person. Plans can be completed by the person, either on their own, with support from other people they trust and know well, or with help from a social worker or other support role (eg a broker or professional support planner). The care and support plan should show how the person's care needs and outcomes will be met, and how the budget will be used to achieve this. A support plan should explain how the person will manage their personal budget (see 'Managing a personal budget' below). It will also look at how they will stay safe and well, and manage difficult times, eg if a care worker is sick or if needs change unexpectedly.

A good support plan will consider the whole person, including any way their care and support needs may be met. This should not just be limited to what services could be purchased, but also incorporate input from family, friends, the person's community links, and other voluntary sources of support.

Step 3: Getting the plan agreed

The third step is getting the plan approved by the local authority. Typically a social worker will check that the plan will meet the person's identified eligible needs and outcomes. A panel at the local authority may be involved at this decision-making stage.

Step 4: Organising money

Once an agreement is reached about how the person's assessed needs will be met, a final budget amount can be set. There are a number of different ways for a person to organise and manage their money (see 'Managing a personal budget' below).

The local authority must check a person's support plan at least once a year. They must check that the person is safe and well, whether their care needs have changed, and whether they are spending their personal budget appropriately so that it meets their eligible needs. A review can be requested at any time if there have been changes to the person's situation or support needs, though there may be a delay before the review can take place.