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Personal Budget & Direct Payments

A personal budget is money you can use to pay for support services, like carers or specialist equipment.

It gives you the freedom to choose the services best suited to your child’s needs.

The amount you get is set out in an education health and care plan (EHC plan)

Applying for and using a personal budget

Applying for and using a personal budget

The way you spend your personal budget will be set out in your EHC plan.

It’s nothing daunting, you and your SEN officer will discuss this with you and go through all the options you have.

You can choose a service recommended by the local authority, or you’re free to choose your own.

How you'll receive your personal budget

  • direct payment – an amount paid directly to you, allowing you to spend it on the services set out on in the plan
  • arrangement - where the local authority looks after the budget for you and arranges service set out in the plan
  • third party arrangement this is where you choose that your budget is managed by another person or organisation on behalf of the child
  • any combination of these

What you can spend your personal budget on

You SEND officer will work with you to find the support which best suits your needs.

Depending on what your circumstances are, you’ll be able to spend your budget on:


Your education plan may set out that mainstream support is not able to provide the support you need.

You could use your budget for

  • specialist education equipment
  • one-on-one support
  • transport to and from the education provider

Social care

  • Support in your home
  • Community services
  • Short breaks

How to apply for personal budget

To get a budget to support your independence, you’ll first need to be assessed.

  • when being assessed for an education health and care plan (EHC plan) your special educational needs (SEN) officer will ask you about a personal budget
  • from assessment to final plan will take a maximum of 20 weeks
  • a plan will be created with you and professionals to understand what support is best need for the child
  • from this, an estimate can be made as to how much funding the plan should cost. 
  • the budget and plan will only be finalised one you and the young person are completely happy with it. 

How to get direct payments

Instead of receiving support through council services, now you can get money to pay directly for the services you need.

You’ll need to speak to your SEN officer about getting a personal budget to do this.

Direct payments give you more flexibility and choice in the care you can get.

How to get direct payments

To get direct payments paid to you, first you’ll have to be assessed.

An assessment is a meeting between you and care professionals to put together a plan of support which can help keep independence.

For young people 18 to 25 years

You’ll need to be assessed by a social worker.

Telephone 020 85833100

Young people aged 0 to 18 years

You’ll need to speak to your SEN officer.

If you’re eligible for direct payments, someone will meet you and explain what you need to do next

How much you can get

Read more about direct payment eligibility on the citizens advice webpage

Using and managing direct payments

You’ll get all the support you need to fully understand and use your direct payments.

This includes

  • putting together a plan
  • finding the right services
  • employing assistants/ workers and setting up payrolls
  • managing your accounts

You can use direct payments to

  • pay someone to support you, like personal assistant
  • buy services agreed in your support plan.
  • join a group/ take part in activities which meet your needs

You can’t use direct payments for

  • services not in you care plan, or that don’t suit your needs
  • paying people cash in hand
  • household expenses, like bills, clothing and food. 

How to manage your payments

A bank account will be set up for you to use.

The amount agreed you need for support will be sent to your account monthly.

Each payment be sent a month in advance.

The direct payments team will be able to look at the account at any time to make sure you’re on budget.

You’ll need to keep any receipts for services you pay for.

Payment card 

When your direct payment is account set up, you’ll get a payment card to pay for services.

Direct payments card

It looks just like a normal direct debit/ credit card, and you use it in the same way.

  • make payments using chip and PIN
  • pay over the phone
  • make bank transfers

If you can’t manage your direct payments you can nominate someone to manage them for you.


Direct payments do not affect your entitlement to benefits. 

Hiring care with direct payments

You can use your direct payments to buy agreed services.

  • carers
  • assistants
  • care agency

We’ll give you all the support you need to hire people.

Employing relatives

The home family is so important to someone’s care. And direct payments are not designed to replace that.

This means you can’t employ a direct family member who lives in the home – unless it’s an exceptional circumstance, like if a family member has particularly complex needs.

You can employ the following family members if they live outside the home.

  • parent or parent-in-law
  • son, daughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law - except for children's services
  • stepson or stepdaughter
  • brother or sister
  • aunt or uncle
  • grandparent
  • the husband, wife or partner of any of the relatives in this list

Choosing a care agency

To choose an agency:

  • you can be recommended a list of providers by us
  • or you can look at the care quality commission website. They make sure health and care services give safe and high quality care.

You’ll be responsible for directly dealing with the agency.

Employing someone to help with your care

Further information about direct payments


You can find thousands of local care and support organisations and individuals.  This means you can organise your own care, and find assistants without having to go through social services. 

Visit the CarePlace website here

Carers UK

See information about asking for direct payments, plus questions and answers

Direct payments factsheet from Carers UK  Updated November 2018(PDF 668KB)

Citizens Advice

To understand everything you need to know about direct payments, Citizens Advice have created this great website

Contact us about a personal budget or direct payments

If you need further information, advice or support about a personal budget or direct payments

Telephone: 020 8583 3051


Financial Assessments Team