What are Direct Payments?
Direct payments are funds which are given to an individual from their local authority so that they purchase and manage their own support services rather than having these services delivered directly. This could mean someone employing a Personal Assistant (PA), engaging a care agency or purchasing respite care that enables them to live in the community with support.
Direct payments are an alternative to other Social Services care provisions such as home care and day care, etc. and are about empowering disabled people to have more choice, take more control of their lives and to make more of the decisions that affect how they live.
They enable disabled people to secure assistance with daily living at times and on occasions of their choosing both within and outside of their home, and can help individuals with support needs to remain in their own home rather than entering residential care.
Anyone who has been assessed by Social Services as being eligible to receive community care services has the option to request, or to have some someone request on their behalf, to receive direct payments instead of services arranged directly by the local authority.
What can Direct Payments be used for?
The funds from direct payments can be used in a variety of ways:
- They can be used to employ personal assistants who provide support with daily living. The recipient of the direct payment, as their employer, needs to be aware of any relevant employment law and to ensure that these obligations are met.
- People may choose to purchase services from an agency of their choice, providing they are registered with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)
It is possible to have a mixed package of care using both PAs and an agency or combining direct payments with other Social Services provisions to meet individual needs.
Direct payments cannot be used to purchase residential services or services directly from the local authority.
There are some limitations to the availability of direct payments as the person in receipt of the payments, or someone on their behalf, must be able to take on the responsibility of managing the support arrangements.
Direct payments are voluntary, so no-one can be forced to receive them, and can be provided as an ongoing service or on a temporary or short-term basis as needed.
The direct payments scheme was made possible by the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996, which gave local authorities the discretion to make cash payments directly to those who need community care services.
The basis for direct payments is the concept of living an independent lifestyle based upon the social model of disability which recognises that people are disabled by barriers in society, e.g. the accessibility of buildings or the attitudes of others, rather than by an impairment itself.