1. What are Direct Payments?

If your local Health and Social Care Trust assesses you as needing personal social services, it may be possible for you to get Direct Payments instead of services provided by the Trust. You could use the money you get from Direct Payments to employ a Personal Assistant or buy services from an agency of your choice.

If you choose to employ someone, you decide who works for you, when they work and what they do. If you would like more control over the assistance you get, then Direct Payments may be for you.

This information sheet gives a brief description of what is involved in setting up Direct Payments and points to where you can get more information and help.

2. What you should consider when thinking about Direct Payments

It is important that you get all the information you require before you decide if Direct Payments will suit you. You should think about the advantages for you personally and also about the responsibilities you will be taking on. Remember that you can get as much help as you need to manage Direct Payments, for example, a member of your family, a friend or an employee could help you with things like the paperwork. You are advised to contact your local Centre for Independent Living for assistance in calculating wages.

It may be helpful to talk to someone who is already using Direct Payments. You should bear in mind that you can have a mixture of Direct Payments and services from the Trust. For example, you may keep those parts of the Trust services that suit you and make your own arrangements for the rest. You may stop Direct Payments at any time and return to getting a service from the Trust.

3. Assessment of need

Direct Payments are based on your assessed need. You will need to ask your local Health and Social Services Trust for an assessment, which is usually carried out by a Social Worker or Care Manager. If you ask for Direct Payments and the Trust is satisfied that you are eligible, and it has adequate finance, then it has a duty to provide you with Direct Payments.

4. Funding of Direct Payments

The amount of Direct Payment you receive is based on the number of hours you have been assessed as needing. Your Direct Payments should be sufficient for you to employ staff and fulfil your legal obligations. You should check the current hourly rate with the Trust.  The hourly rate you receive from the Trust will not necessarily be the same amount you could afford to pay your worker.  For advice on budgeting contact your local Centre for Independent Living.

5. Direct Payments Agreement

If you accept Direct Payments, the Trust will ask you to sign an agreement which outlines how you should use your Direct Payments and how you are expected to account for the money.

6. Bank Account

You are stongly advised to open a separate bank account to be used for Direct Payments only. Personal Assistants should be paid out of the bank account. This makes it easier to keep track of the money for your records that will need to be sent to the Trust.

7. Recruiting Staff

It is important that you recruit good staff that are reliable, trustworthy and loyal. You may already know someone who is willing to work for you or you may need to advertise. Listed below are some points you will need to consider when recruiting staff:

The Centre for Independent Living can assist you with this paperwork.  Your Social Worker/Care Manager will process the Police Check/Access NI Check if required.

8. Managing the money

If you are employing staff, you may need to know about the following:

You may find the prospect of becoming an employer somewhat daunting, but with the right support it can be done without any great difficulty. If you need help with calculating and managing wages (including Tax and NIC), you could use our Payroll Service.

Please contact your local Centre for Independent Living if you require support or training on any aspect of becoming an employer.

9. Back-up Arrangements

While it is never possible to guarantee that your personal support arrangements will always run smoothly, any disruption can be minimised by making good back-up arrangements.

If you are employing a number of staff, they could provide cover for each other. You could possibly have a contract with an agency to provide emergency cover or perhaps you could have an arrangement with a friend, relative or neighbour. At the end of the day, the Health and Social Services Trust has a legal responsibility to provide a service in an emergency.

10. Monitoring

The Health and Social Services Trust will monitor your arrangements for Direct Payments to ensure that your needs are being met and the money is spent appropriately. You will be required to keep timesheets, receipts and bank records which can be inspected by the Trust. Also, you may need to keep records for HM Revenue and Customs.

11. Who can I contact for further help about Direct Payments?

If you need information, advice or training on any aspect of Direct Payments contact us.