AMENDMENTThis chapter was significantly updated in March 2021 and should be re-read.
1. What are Direct Payments?
A Direct Payment is a payment made by the local authority to the parent / carer(s) of a child or young person with disabilities, or to a young person with disabilities aged 16 or 17, to enable them to buy the support to meet their identified needs, instead of the local authority providing that support directly. A Direct Payment gives the family more flexibility, choice and control over the services they use. Direct Payments do not affect government benefits and do not count as income.
2. Who can get Direct Payments?
Children / young people who have been assessed by the Disabled Children Team as needing care or support services, or who meet the criteria for short breaks support through the Aiming High Local Offer.
Direct Payments may be given to:
- A parent or carer of a disabled child aged under 18; or
- A disabled young person aged 16 or 17 years old.
3. How Often are Direct Payments Made?
Direct Payments are paid in advance into a bank account specifically set up for this purpose. The frequency of payments will be determined by the needs of the service user, but usually they are made on a six monthly basis, in line with the financial year. If necessary, a one off payment can be made for ad-hoc services.
4. What is the Process?
Depending on the level of support being requested:
- Aiming High (Local Offer): Following a referral to the Aiming High Team, an Inclusion & Outreach Worker will contact the family within 6 weeks to discuss the referral in more detail. If the child meets the criteria for the Aiming High Local Offer, Direct Payments are one of the support options available. The child will be offered up to 78 hours per year (approx.1.5 hours per week, to be used flexibly);
- Disabled Children Team: Following a statutory assessment of need by a Social Worker from the Disabled Children Team, Direct Payments may be identified as a way of meeting identified needs. The appropriate assessment / plan will be completed and shared with the family and the professional will establish with the parent/carer or young person whether they are willing and/or able to manage a Direct Payment. Any request for Direct Payments must be submitted to Care Panel for approval. Once a request has been approved by Care Panel, the Social Worker will complete a referral to the Direct Payment service.
On receipt of a referral, the Direct Payment Support Advisor will contact the family to discuss the next steps. Once the family have set up a bank account and (where applicable) identified a worker, the Direct Payment Support Advisor will arrange a set up meeting, to complete all of the necessary paperwork.
Families are strongly advised to ensure that any personal assistant undergoes a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The local authority will organize and pay for this.
5. How Direct Payments can be Spent
- Aiming High (Local Offer): The Direct Payment is to enable the family to employ a personal assistant (PA) to support the child to access social and leisure activities outside of school hours;
- Disabled Children Team: The Direct Payment must be used as agreed in the care plan, in order to meet the assessed needs. This could include employing a personal assistant to support the child / young person to access an activity, work with the child within the home and/or give parents and siblings a break; to pay a registered childminder or approved agency to provide direct care to meet your child/family's needs; to pay for a short break service, or; by agreement with the Team Manager, any service which meets the assessed need for a short break.
Direct Payments cannot be used to pay for services from a spouse, partner or a close relative living in the household unless the local authority consider it is necessary to do so and this has been approved by the Service Manager. However, a Direct Payment can be used to employ a relative if they are not living in the household.
6. What are the Benefits of Direct Payments?
Direct Payments allow families greater flexibility, choice and control over the services they use and how they are delivered, providing an individual service to meet their needs.