Direct Payments are money paid to people by the Council who have assessed care and support needs so that they can choose, arrange and pay for their own care and support. Direct Payments make it possible to have more choice and control over the type of help and support needed, rather than using our contracted services.
If you qualify for help, the social care worker who completes your needs assessment will explain Direct Payments and how they work, and give you information to read. You can then take time to decide what you want you to do. You must want to use the scheme and be able to manage your care and support arrangements, and keep information about how the money is used. You can ask someone else to manage your Direct Payment for you, such as a friend, family member or volunteer. You may be thinking of employing someone to help you, this means you will take on the responsibility of an employer, so you need to know and understand the rules that employers must follow. We have organisations that can help you with this (see below).
If you use the Direct Payments Scheme you will have money paid into a separate bank account that is only used for your Direct Payment. The money can be used to help you with what you want to achieve. For example, this could be personal care, support to use daytime activities or respite care. You can buy help from an agency or employ your own carers.
You cannot use your Direct Payment to pay for food, gas, electricity or other utilities. Before buying any specialist equipment first consider if it is available from the integrated Community Equipment and Home Improvement Agency – MyHome MyLife – This can normally be provided free of charge if you have been assessed by an Occupational Therapist as needing the equipment. Please see www.somersetmyhomemylife.co.uk
You can receive a Direct Payment as well as benefits. Your Direct Payment will not affect the benefits you receive. It is not the same as Direct Payments from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Direct Payment Advisory Scheme
Independent advisory services are available to support people who have Direct Payments. Everyone new to the scheme should meet, or talk, with one of their experienced advisers. They can:
visit you at home to explain the help they can provide
discuss your responsibilities as a Direct Payment user
help you set up a Direct Payment bank account
help you recruit and employ staff
give you health and safety advice
help you set up a system for dealing with tax and National Insurance for someone you employ
offer a payroll service, if needed
help and explain how to keep financial records to show what you have spent
be at the end of a phone if you need advice.
When you join the scheme, an independent adviser will be able to help you manage the paperwork for a short time until you are confident with it. They will support you through the whole process, from deciding whether or not to use Direct Payments to setting up everything to get going. The adviser is there to support you once your arrangements are set up and if you have any problems or concerns about employing your staff.
If you would like to know more about Direct Payments or would like to have an assessment, you can talk to your social care worker, if you have one, or phone us on 0300 123 2224.