By Sam Fiske, former Finance Assistant for Dosh
In social care today, there are so many more possibilities for those who receive support than ever before. Today, if you want to have more choice and control in how your support is arranged, you can ask to receive your personal budget from the local authority as a direct payment. Having a direct payment means that you can pick who you want to provide your support to help you achieve your goals. If you choose, you can even employ a personal assistant. This means that you can choose support that truly fits you as an individual, your preferences, and the things you want to achieve in life.
Some people like what they hear about direct payments and the impact it could have for them and their loved ones, but they are worried about handling such large amounts of money and they are unsure who can ask for a direct payment.
Self-directed support is new and changing, and while everyone is still learning, we at Dosh believe it is a great opportunity for people to lead independent lives as they wish. We thought we would try to address some of the worries that people have and myths that seem to stick around.
Myth #1 “If somebody cannot ask for a direct payment themselves, then they are not allowed to have one”
Some people think that because an individual may not be able to ask for a direct payment (because of their disability or mental capacity); this means that they are not able to have one. This is not the case; all it means is that there are some extra steps that need to be taken. Even if a person is not able to manage the funds in their personal budget themselves, they can still consent to receiving them as a direct payment.
Your local authority should give you every chance to give your consent, by giving you support to understand information and using different forms of communication.
Once your needs have been assessed, the social worker of your local authority should lead a best interest decision process. This means involving you as much as possible and asking your friends and family and other people who know you well, what support you want. If it is decided a direct payment is in your best interests, a suitable person can agree to manage the direct payment for you.
Myth #2 – “If somebody has very complex needs, they will not be able to have a direct payment”
The level of support somebody needs does not make a difference to whether they can have a direct payment. If somebody has complex needs, and cannot communicate their preferences clearly, they can get support to choose and manage their budget.
A friend or family member can agree to become a suitable person, which means they handle the funds in a direct payment for you. This comes with responsibility, so it should be somebody you trust. If there is nobody you know that is willing and able to do this, then organisations like Dosh can act as the suitable person. We will agree with your local authority to manage the money, we will open a separate bank account especially for your direct payment, and we will pay the organisations who provide your support.
You can use a direct payment to buy any kind of support, including a support provider, or a team of personal assistants to meet your needs. We support people to manage a direct payment who have 24/7 support and high support needs and it works for them.
Myth #3 – “The amount of responsibility and paperwork involved in having a direct payment means it’s just not worth it”
Managing a direct payment does involve responsibility and paperwork, but this should not stop you or a loved one getting a direct payment – because there is lots of support available. If you would like a direct payment but not the workload that comes with, you may have a friend or family member who is able to do it for you. There are also organisations like Dosh who can support you to manage the direct payment. We can do this for family members who still want to be involved but do not want to manage the money itself. This might also be for you if do not want to or cannot manage the direct payment yourself but still want to choose your support.
Myth #4 – “Receiving a direct payment will have an impact on the benefits I receive”
The money you receive as a direct payment is not counted as income for any benefits you receive, and so it does not affect any of your benefits. It is not considered income because there are only some things you can use the money in your direct payment to pay for. You can only use it to pay for care and support services that meet needs as agreed in your plan. If benefits are your main income for day-to-day living, you have nothing to worry about – your benefits won’t be reduced or taken away because of a direct payment. You may have to pay some money towards your direct payment, but this happens with all types of budget and support and should be affordable.
If you want to learn more about getting support with direct payments and self-directed support have a look at our account management page. Still got some questions? Phone us on 0300 303 1288, or email [email protected]