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Family Information and Services Hub

Direct Payments

Information for disabled children age 0-18 (Children’s Social Care)


What are Direct Payments?

A Direct Payment is money from your local authority that allows you to buy care services or items your child needs, instead of Children’s services staff organising this for you.

Disabled adults also use Direct Payments.

Personal budgets for care needs, health and / or a Direct Payment for Special Educational needs (SEN) can also be available for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

How can I get Direct Payments?

This support comes from the Disabled Children’s Team in Hampshire County Council. They are a specialist social work and occupational therapy service, meeting the social care needs of children/young people with severe and complex disabilities, and their families.

Social care needs include personal care, social support, and protection for children in need/at risk. The Disabled Children’s Team will complete an assessment to help understand what families may need; and organise services to meet these needs.

Direct Payments could be offered instead of staff organising your services; or you could have a mix of Direct Payments with some other services arranged for you.

To see if you might qualify for support from the Disabled Children’s teams please look at the eligibility criteria 

Direct Payments can also be offered to help meet the needs of a carer, following a Carer’s assessment

To receive Direct Payments you need to be ‘willing and able’ – this means you choose to receive Direct Payments, and you are able to manage them (with support if needed).

There are some very rare exceptions when legally a Direct Payment cannot be made. These people are not legally permitted to be offered the use of Direct Payments: offenders on a community order or suspended sentence; offenders on a community rehabilitation order; offenders released from prison on licence; and people with drug or alcohol dependency who are subject to compulsory treatment orders.

Why choose Direct Payments?

Many families and adults who choose Direct Payments feel it helps them to have greater choice, control and flexibility as to how their care needs are met, and to live a more independent life. They can be particularly flexible for people who have specific cultural needs, or families living in more rural areas.

How do I find out more?

If your child is assessed as needing some support or services, your social worker / occupational therapist will talk through the options with you and provide information about Direct Payments.

There is a Direct Payment Support Service run by Enham Trust who can tell you more about what is involved before you decide to go ahead (you will need a referral from Children’s Services staff).

What can Direct Payments be spent on?

There is no specific list of services which can be bought, this will be agreed between you and your worker and will be recorded in your child’s plan.

Many families have spent the money on employing support workers/ personal assistants to help with care tasks or take your child out for a break. If you employ staff using your Direct Payments, they must complete an up-to-date criminal records check (a Disclosure & Barring Service check) before they can start work, which your social worker will arrange and pay for.

There are some things that Direct Payments cannot legally be spent on, including residential care, nursing care or medicines. Your worker will discuss this with you.

Direct Payments cannot be used to employ a close relative who lives in the same household (unless an exceptional circumstance is agreed).

Direct Payments are offered following social care assessment, and are intended to meet those needs that are additional (over and above what is widely available through other services).

Activities that are part of Hampshire’s Short Breaks programme request a reasonable parental contribution that all parents/carers are asked to pay. We recognise that some families feel that a positive outcome of using Direct Payments is the opportunity to purchase more creative/individual options, so they may wish to part-fund an activity session for their child, as part of their child’s plan. This use of Direct Payments is subject to individual discussion between the Social Worker and the Direct Payment user at the point of setting up the Direct Payment and at review, and should be detailed in the Child in Need Plan.

How much money will I receive for my child?

This will depend on the assessment and what resources agreed by Children’s services, your worker will discuss this with you.

Some families receive a regular amount each week, other families receive Direct Payments just in school holidays, and some families receive a one-off Direct Payment for a specific thing they are buying for example a piece of equipment.

The amount of the payment and other important details are written into the Letter of Agreement. This will be discussed with you and signed by you and your worker before any payments are made.

Your Direct Payment could be stopped if you do not stick to the agreement made, but this would always be discussed with you first and support offered to you.

How do I get the money, and what records do I have to keep?

You need to open a separate bank account for the Direct Payments to be paid into – this can be in your child’s name or yours but needs to be separate to your other accounts. You will need to keep bank statements, records of all transactions, and receipts for items bought or wages paid to staff.

The Direct Payments Support Service can help you set up your record-keeping. There will be a discussion with your worker at your child’s review about how the Direct Payments are meeting your child’s needs.

Once a year, there will be a more in-depth review where your worker will look at your records in more detail with you and they will let you know in advance about this.

What about all the extra costs and work involved if I choose to employ staff myself?

The Direct Payment Support Service run by Enham Trust is there to help you with all aspects of getting set up to start using Direct Payments, and managing them as you go along. They can help with recruitment of staff, employment contracts, dealing with tax and insurance, and setting up record-keeping.

If you wish, there are separate payroll services that can deal with staff wages, if you are employing staff. Children’s Services will discuss with you how much Direct Payments you need, and can pay for things like employer liability insurance and the costs of using a payroll service, if these are required.

I would like to carry on having Direct Payments after my child turns 18

Once young people become 16 years old, the Mental Capacity Act will be relevant. Your worker will discuss further with you.

Young people aged 16 and 17 can receive the Direct Payment in their own right, or it can continue to be paid to their parent/carer. As a young person approaches their 18th birthday, Adult services staff will need to meet your family and make an assessment before agreeing to continue the Direct Payment.

A mental capacity assessment may be needed if there is doubt about the young person’s ability to consent to receiving their Direct Payment. If they are not able to, the money can still be paid to a ‘Suitable Person’ (often a parent / carer). Staff from Children’s services and Adult services will discuss this with you.

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