You may have heard that the money available from your local council to pay towards the cost of any support you need is now known as a personal budget.

If you are eligible for support from the council then a personal budget allows you to spend the money allocated for that support in a way that best suits you, and to stay as independent as possible.

Your personal budget is the total sum of money needed to pay for your social care. When the council assesses your support needs, they will first of all check that you are eligible for help, then work out what specific help you need and calculate your personal budget accordingly. They will also tell you whether you have to pay a contribution towards any support which you receive.

You will then be able to choose how the total sum of money is spent and take as much control over your care as you feel comfortable with.

How it works

You can ask the council to spend your personal budget and organise your support for you, or you can ask them to give your personal budget money to you in the form of direct payment.

Whichever method you choose you will have a support plan, showing how the personal budget will be used to meet your needs. You'll need to agree on the support plan and sign a Direct Payment agreement - a contract with the council which outlines your responsibilities.

Managing your direct payment - your responsibilities

If you decide that you want your personal budget to be paid to you in the form of a direct payment then the council will normally order a pre-paid card for you to use. If you need support to manage your direct payment the council will offer to refer you to a managed account provider.

You can then use the money to make payments for the support you have identified in your support plan. You will be responsible for:

  • arranging the support
  • making the necessary payments
  • keeping track of what's left in your budget
  • showing the council on a regular basis how you are spending your money.

The council will arrange assistance for you in managing your direct payment, and in making sure that you know what to do.

Getting someone else to manage your direct payment

If you prefer you can ask someone else to manage your direct payment and to pay for your support on your behalf. You can nominate a relative or a friend, or you can use a local organisation to act as your agent; the council will provide a list of organisations for you.

Eligibility for a personal budget

The first step is to request a needs assessment from your local council. To do this please contact our contact centre on 0208 770 5000.

Other information and advice

HomeCareDirect aims to help people take control over their care at home, whether through personal or health budgets, direct payments or for people who pay for their care themselves.

Age UK offers information and advice on personal budgets.

Independent Age provides a leaflet called Home Care: using a direct payment or a personal budget.

MIND provides a guide to personal budgets, with information about what you can do to get support.

Mencap provides an easy-read leaflet, Know Your Rights: Personal Budgets.

Scope provides information on direct payments and personal budgets.

Mental Health Foundation has produced several videos on the benefits of self-directed support, including for people with dementia.

SENSE provides advice and suggestions on how personal budgets can benefit people with dual sensory impairments (being blind and deaf).

Disability Rights UK provides information on personal budgets.

In Control has produced a workbook called In The Driving Seat which will help you to ensure that your support plan covers all of the important issues and gives you as much control over your life as possible.

Encompass Support service, contact Encompass Direct Payments team via or 0208 915 2395.