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Making care personalised

Personal budgets are part of a way of managing care and support called personalisation, which is designed to make sure the help you receive suits you as an individual.

Every person assessed as having eligible needs now has a personal budget.

What is personalisation?

Personalisation aims to ensure that the care and support each person gets is matched to their needs and wishes. It also makes sure that everyone who needs information and advice about social care gets it, regardless of their wealth or eligibility for services.

Personal budgets are a key part of personalisation, because they give you more control over your care and support.

Personal budgets - the basics

When you are assessed by your council as being eligible for social care, and after you have been means tested, they will come up with a budget that must cover the cost of meeting your eligible needs. That amount of money can be altered if your needs change. They will also carry out a means-test, to see if you need to contribute.

Provided that you have eligible needs and are not funding care yourself, you can then decide how you want to use the money the council provides in your personal budget.

You can:

  • Have it as a direct payment – paid into an account for you.
  • Have it put into an account managed by the council but spent in line with your wishes.
  • Put it into an account help with a care service provider and managed by you.
  • Put into a trust held on your behalf by a carer, friend or family member.
  • A mix of the above options.

It’s up to you how you want to receive your personal budget. You should always receive free advice and support from the council to help you make an informed decision. There are also a range of services being set up by voluntary organisations to help people to plan how to use their personal budget, although you may need to pay for those.

Independent personal budgets

If the council finds that you are not eligible for funded care, they should still help you decide how to arrange the help that you need. You can also get an independent personal budget, which will detail how much your care needs will cost you even though the council won’t be paying for them.

Direct payments

When your personal budget is paid directly to you this is called a Direct Payment. Direct Payments allow you to arrange your care as you wish.

There are rules about what you can and can’t use direct payments for. The money must be used to meet the eligible needs identified in your assessment.

You can use direct payments for anything that meets those needs, for example:

  • employ your own care workers
  • buy services from a voluntary or private agency
  • buy equipment or pay for home adaptations
  • purchase other types of support to meet your assessed needs
  • get to a café to meet your friends, a place of worship, or other places that are important to you.

You can be personal and creative with your budget. For example, if one of your assessed needs is help with shopping, you could pay for someone to help you go shopping yourself rather than just pay someone to do it for you.

You can’t use direct payments to:

  • pay a spouse, civil-partner, live-in partner, or a close relative who lives in the same household as you to care for you (although there may be exceptions to this)
  • buy services from your local council
  • pay for permanent care in a care home. You can, however, pay for a short stay of up to four consecutive weeks within any 12-month period if that meets an assessed need.

Not everyone will feel comfortable or capable of managing their direct payments themselves, and you don’t have to if you don’t want to. You can always choose the option for the council to arrange care for you, and you can still have a say in what will best meet your needs.

Using direct payments

If you choose to arrange and manage your own care with direct payments, the council should still help you to arrange this. They should also still regularly check that your needs are being met.

You may find that local charities offer support and planning services to help people manage their direct payments and find care. Your local Age UK might be able to help – call Age UK advice to get the contact details for your nearest one.

Employing your own carer

If you need a carer or personal assistant and your budget covers this as one of your eligible needs, you can choose to employ one yourself. This can be a great way of making sure that you have an assistant that you feel comfortable with.

When choosing who to employ, think about:

  • what kind of person you want
  • how many people you will need (including back-up for holidays and sick leave)
  • the tasks they will have to do
  • the skills and qualities they will need
  • what hours they will work and when
  • the rate of pay.

Also bear in mind that you will need to file tax records with HM Revenue and Customs. Make sure you talk to them to get the right forms to fill in.

New pension rules mean that those who employ their own carers using either their own money or money from their direct payment may now be legally obliged to contribute towards a pension for them. You may need to take this into account if you decide to hire a carer or carers directly and pay them more than £10,000 per year. If you hire a carer through an agency, or if the local authority arranges your care for you, then you won’t need to pay money into a pension. If you have a carer and they earn less than £10,000 a year, this also won’t apply. For more information, contact The Pensions Regulator.

Disability Rights UK have a useful section on managing personal budgets and employing a personal assistant on their website.

Managing a personal budget for someone else

A ‘suitable person’ can manage a personal budget in the form of a direct payment under certain circumstances.

When someone lacks mental capacity

Direct payments are available to those who lack mental capacity as long as they have someone to manage them on their behalf. This must be someone reliable who will manage things in their best interests, like a close family member.

Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney

It’s possible for someone with an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney to manage a direct payment for an individual, but you don’t necessarily need to have one for this to happen. Either way, the local council is responsible for making sure that the arrangement is properly set up and monitored.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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