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Personalised care budgets

Personal budgets and direct payments can give you more control over your care. Find out more about what that means in our online guide.

If you need help with day-to-day tasks at home, your local health trust may be able to help you pay for care. If you're eligible for help, they will provide you with a personal budget to pay for this extra support as part of a wider care plan.

What is a personal budget?

A personal budget is provided by the health trust if they decide you are eligible for help. It gives you an amount of money to spend based on how much it will cost in your local area to arrange the care and support you need.

Every person assessed as having eligible needs will be given a personal budget so that the health trust can ensure care needs are met.

How are personal budgets calculated?

The amount of money in your personal budget is worked out by the health trust based on:

  • your care needs assessment
  • a financial assessment known as a means-test, which looks at your income, savings and other capital assets.
  • how it will cost to meet your eligible needs

The amount of money in your personal budget can be changed in future if your needs change.

How do I use my personal budget?

It’s up to you how you want to use your personal budget to meet your eligible needs. It can be used in one of three ways:

  • your Health Trust can manage an account
  • a third party can manage an account
  • you can manage a direct payment.

Management by your local health trust

The health trust manages your personal budget for you. They will be responsible for arranging care and support for you, but this must be based on your wishes and as agreed in your care plan. This is the most commonly chosen option.

Management by a third party

A third party organisation, such as a care provider, will arrange payments for services you are receiving in line with your wishes. The third party may charge you for this service.

Direct payments

Cash payments are paid directly into a bank account specifically set up to receive the personal budget (not your usual savings account). You can choose how to spend this money to meet the needs set down in your agreed care plan, which maximises your choice and independence. It can’t be used to pay for day-to-day costs such as food or utility bills.

You must request direct payments if you want to receive them. The health trust then decides whether to agree.

Even though you have control over your direct payments, the health trust should still help you arrange and manage your care, and regularly check that your needs are still being met. They should provide appropriate support, information, and advice. They may also ask you to keep all receipts as proof of spending.

You can be personal and creative with how you spend your direct payments, 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
  • pay for someone to help you get to a café to meet your friends, a place of worship, to the shops, or other places that are important to you.

Direct payments are a good way to be creative and flexible when managing your care but they can involve more work for you to arrange the care.

Find out more

Find out more about arranging your own care at home or employing your own carer.

What if I’m not eligible for a personal budget?

If social services decide that you're not eligible for social care services and a personal budget, they should still help you decide how to arrange the help you need.

You can also request a reassessment at a later date. You could also challenge the decision through the complaints procedure. Talk to social services about a reassessment or to request a complaints form.

Can I manage the personal budget for someone I care for?

A 'suitable person' - usually a family member or a friend - 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 person may have power of attorney or deputyship. Otherwise, the health trust must be satisfied that you are a suitable person who will manage the money in the person's best interests.

What should I do next?

Contact your local health trust

Your local health trust's social services department will carry out a free assessment of your care needs

Age NI Advice Service

Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.

Call freephone 0808 808 7575
Monday - Friday 9am – 5pm 

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Last updated: Jan 16 2024

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