Direct Payments

Direct Payments

Direct Payments:

What are they and who can receive them?

If you have been assessed by social services as needing care and support, then you may be entitled to receive direct payments from your council.

Direct payments are available in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland if you are aged 16 or over and can be used to buy services for adults, children, and carers.

Direct payments allow you to choose and buy the care services you need, instead of getting them from your council. This gives you control over your care and support. For example, you could use a direct payment to employ a carer or personal assistant or to use the services of a home care agency. You would not be able to use a direct payment to buy care and support services from your council.

It’s important to know that a direct payment cannot usually be used to pay for care and support services provided by family members living with you. This would include a partner, a parent, a sibling, or your child. It also includes wider family members such as aunts and uncles and grandparents.

However, if your council agrees that care and support provided by a family member living with you is the most effective way of meeting your needs, then it might be possible to use a direct payment to pay that family member for their services. This is something that councils seem to be more willing to consider because of the pandemic and care staff shortages.

If you are eligible for direct payments, you can have:

  • Direct payments.
  • Care services that are provided and arranged by your council.
  • A mixture of direct payments and care services provided and arranged by your council.

Whilst most people find direct payments offer them greater flexibility, your council cannot force you to accept direct payments if you would prefer for your council to provide and arrange care services. You can only have direct payments if you, or someone acting on your behalf, agrees to the payments being made. The choice is yours.

If you wish to receive a direct payment, your council will work out how much it would cost to provide the care and support you need. Your council may ask you to contribute towards the cost (your council will carry out a financial assessment to work out whether you have to make a contribution and if so, how much).

Subject to your eligibility to receive direct payments, before a direct payment is made, your council will need to be satisfied that your care and support needs can be met using direct payments and that you can manage them (this includes managing them with appropriate support).

You should be aware that your council will review your care regularly if you receive direct payments. This is to ensure that your care is meeting your needs and that the direct payments allow you to buy the care you need. A review should take place within the first year of making the direct payment and after this, at least annually.

Your council will expect you to keep receipts and records to show how the direct payment has been spent.

In some situations, the council may ask you to repay a direct payment, for example, if they believe the direct payment has not been used to buy the care and support for which the payment was intended to pay.

If you receive a direct payment, you can ask the council to stop making payments at any time. If your council stops your direct payments and you disagree with their decision, then you should speak to your council and if necessary, consider making a complaint to social services.

How can we help?

Our specialist Court of Protection team has a wealth of experience in supporting vulnerable individuals, including those who lack capacity, and their families. If you have any questions or queries then please contact the writer Charlene Hughes by email at

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