What you need to know about personal budgets – helping your clients

The term ‘Personal Budget’ means different things to different people, for many it means exactly what it sounds like, their money that they have budgeted, but in terms of Care, the term ‘Personal Budget’ has developed a specific meaning.

Personal Budgets and Care

Over the last few years there has been a very significant change in the way that Social Services departments provide care; this is part of what is called personalisation. Personal Budgets are a way of giving the service user control over the services that they receive. This means that instead of the Council deciding what services are best for individuals, the service user (with support from their friends, family and/or other professionals) gets to decide what’s best for them themselves. To qualify for a Personal Budget a service user must first have been assessed by the Council as having an Eligible Need [LINK]. You can use our  Care Needs Assessment Helper to look and your clients needs and get an idea as to whether they are likely to be eligible (remember Premium Members can access YtB documents for free from their dashboard).

Since April 2015, under the Care Act 2014, councils are required to allocate a personal budget to everyone who is eligible for care.  This is supposed to cover the costs of meeting the needs that the Council has a statutory duty to meet. Each Council will have its own way of calculating how much money someone should receive, but it will also depend on how much money the individual has. Try our Funding Wizard to look at individual circumstances.

The person who is awarded the budget (with support from their friends, family and/or other professionals) will then have to agree with the Council as to how they are going to spend the money; this is often called a Care Plan [LINK] and you should be working with all your clients to develop their care plan.

Having a Personal Budget does not mean that individuals have to manage the budget themselves or employ people directly.

Direct Payment Individuals can choose to manage it themselves if they want (or if they don’t have capacity then someone can be appointed to managed the budget on their behalf), this would mean that the money is paid into a bank account set up specifically to hold the budget and they then spend it themselves in line with the agreed care plan.  
Managed Account or Arranged Service. Individuals can have the council manage the Personal Budget for them (in line with the individual’s wishes) This means that the individual can still choose how they wish to receive services, however family and friends often report that more commonly the council simply choose care service for the client, and then arrange and pay for them.
Individual Service Fund Individuals can nominate a third party to manage the fund and arrange/provide the care and support.  The provider or third party agency, would then set-up a special account for the individual and use it to buy or provide care or support that the individual wanted. They would send regular statements to the Individual so that they knew how much money was left in their account.

Buying Care or Support with a Personal Budget

Personal budgets aim to give people more control over how their needs are met. This includes who provides what care and support, when, and how often. Direct payments should mean that people have more real control, including, if they wish, the opportunity to employ their own Paid Carer, or having a combination of different people and organisations helping them.

On the other hand allowing the Council to manage it on their behalf is often more straightforward, but the choice and control is frequently more limited.

In many cases Individuals may choose to meet the cost of care through a combination of Personal Budget and contributions by the individual themselves or their family. This will be probably be easier if the individual takes their Personal Budget in the form of a Direct Payment.

Personal budgets are being introduced quite quickly across the country, but in each local authority there will be some services that people are judged to need where it is not possible to buy this with a personal budget, but where the Council has to pay for it directly. This will be particularly true in the case of care homes, although the government is considering whether to allow Councils to provide personal budgets to care home residents as well.

Paid carers and those wishing to become a paid carer really need to familiarise themselves with the different approaches to and methods of holding a personal budget so that they can advise their clients and point them in the right direct to get care funded if they are eligible.

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