Northern Ireland: Personal budgets

5. What can direct payments be used for?

A range of support services are available and direct payments can be used to buy all of the support that a person has been assessed as needing, or just part of that support. Each person's needs are different and it is important to discuss with a social worker what the direct payment will be spent on. The trust must also agree what the direct payment will be used for. The trust will need the person managing the budget to keep records.

There are a number of ways that direct payments can be used to meet someone's needs, such as:

  • employing staff
  • contracting people who are self-employed
  • buying services from an agency.

The trust may agree to offer a combination of direct payments and services provided by social services, if this is what the person prefers.

For many people, the prospect of managing direct payments, particularly if this means becoming an employer, is quite daunting. Talking to someone who is already using direct payments can be helpful.

The Centre for Independent Living (see 'Other useful organisations') can also provide reassurance, support and independent advice on a wide range of matters relating to direct payments, including referral, assessment, finding staff, and managing money.