Information about Direct Payments

This is the introductory page to our Independent Living Service at Real, and gives you some information about Direct Payments. It also answers some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who do you support?

We support anyone eligible for social care from the council, and Personal Health Budgets from the NHS.

What’s a Personal Budget and what’s a Direct Payment?

Depending on the care and support you need, you can get money from the council to pay for it. This money is called a Personal Budget. Everyone who qualifies for support has this. The council will provide you with services with these funds. You can choose to have your Personal Budget as a Direct Payment, which means that the services that you need can be purchased and arranged by you directly. Around 21% of people with a Personal Budget in Tower Hamlets users choose to have a Direct Payment. Similarly, people who qualify can choose to have a Personal Health Budget as a Direct Payment.

What can I spend my Direct Payment on?

You have a Support Plan that explains how you are allowed to use your Direct Payment, how much it will cost to do so and who will be managing this money. You have to sign a Service User Agreement before your Direct Payment funding can start. This has terms and conditions of use which will be explained to you. If you have questions about the terms and conditions you can call our Advice Line on 020 7001 2188.

You must only spend your Direct Payment on services outlined in your Support Plan. For example, you can choose to use an agency by buying hours from them or employ someone directly and become an employer.

What if my support needs change?

If you believe that your needs have changed, or you want to use the money for something not in your support plan, you need to contact Social Services before you make changes. You can call the Assessment and Intervention team at the council on 020 7364 5005.

What if I need support to manage my Direct Payment funds? How does it work?

If you find making decisions difficult, a nominated person can receive the Direct Payment on your behalf and set up the services as you would have done. Additionally, if the council feel they would prefer your funds to be managed by someone else, but you remain responsible for those services, they can apply the condition of a managed account. A managed account will allow an organisation to manage your finances while you still remain in control of the care you are being provided with.

The organisation responsible for managing your account will pay your staff directly by bank transfer, pay any tax and NI contributions directly to HMRC on your behalf, deal with any payment queries with the local authority, renew your employer’s liability insurance, make sure the payments match what is written in your Support Plan and provide the local authority with monitoring information so they can see how the funds are being used.

If a managed account is set up you will be asked to complete a registration form and sign a letter of agreement with the organisation who are authorised to manage your Direct Payment finances. You can call this organisation to enquire about how they are managing your funds and ask what the current balance is.

What if I don’t need support to manage my Direct Payment funds? How does it work?

You will need a separate bank account to have your Direct Payments paid into.  This will need to be a current account as you will need to either make payments by cheque, bank transfer or via on-line or phone banking to agency or staff. You will be responsible for payments such as staff wages or agency invoices, payroll, NI and HMRC contributions or liability insurance out of allocated funds from the council. You are responsible for only spending the amount that is in the Support Plan and for providing financial monitoring to the council. If you have questions about managing your support you can call our Advice Line on 020 7001 2188

If you have difficulty opening a bank account, it might be helpful to ask Social Services to send you a letter explaining why you need the account.

Not being able to open a bank account is not a barrier to having a Direct Payment. You can have a managed account (see above) if you cannot open a bank account.

What is a contingency plan?

Having a contingency plan is one of the terms and conditions of a Direct Payment. This is a backup plan if you are an employer for when your worker is on holiday (annual leave) or is sick and unable to work. You can give names of people who you would pay to work for you, the name of an agency, or it can be people who you can’t pay (such as someone who lives with you) but who would be willing to fill in, in an emergency.

If you use an agency they will automatically send someone else to cover sickness or annual leave.

What is financial monitoring?

Once you are on Direct Payments, if your account is self-managed you will need to provide monitoring for Social Services, showing how you are spending the money.

Every three months, you will need to fill in a form that shows that you are spending the money on meeting your needs and that you aren’t over or under spending. We can teach you how to do this, and give you as much support as you need. There is a paper form template you can photocopy and use, or you can use a computer programme template such as Excel. You need to give the form and a copy of your bank statement to Social Services. If you have a managed account the third party organisation will complete this on your behalf. If you have questions about monitoring you can call us on 020 7001 2188.

How long it will all take?

Once we receive a referral from your Social Worker to help you set up your Direct Payment you will be contacted within 48 hours of this referral notice.

After meeting with you to sign paperwork it could take between 3 – 5 weeks for the money to appear in your Direct Payments bank account. It can be quicker if it is a managed account.

You will only be able to start employing someone once the money is in your account and all your employer responsibilities have been met, such as purchasing employer’s liability insurance. You will be informed of the earliest start date.

Your allocated Direct Payments Worker will stay with you until your Direct Payment is successfully set and this includes helping you to complete your first set of monitoring for the local authority, if you are self-managed. We have a form for comments, complaints and compliments. If you would like a copy please call 020 7001 2188.  

After a year from your Direct Payment starting we will contact you again to see how everything is going. You can, of course, contact our Advice Line on 020 7001 2188 if you have any questions before this.

What existing Direct Payment users say about our Direct Payments team

“I think we should put C forward for Mastermind, specialist chosen subject:  Direct Payments. E is extremely knowledgeable and so supportive.”

“Thanks so very much C for your concern, your advice, and all your hard work on my behalf.  It means a lot.”

“I would like to thank you for attending the professionals’ conference and the prep meeting with K and myself last week. You came across as very professional and knowledgeable and your help and support are greatly appreciated! Thank you!”   

“Thank you so much for supporting us, I do really appreciate your amazing kind help with B. It’s people like you that make a world of difference to B and myself as his mum, trying to get the best possible help for him.”

“I hope you don’t mind me emailing you to say what a fantastic help C has been to me and my son B. She has been an absolute life saver in helping me sort B’s Direct Payments.”

Want to learn more? Here’s where to look…

There are other pages about Direct Payments for Adults, Direct Payments for Children, and a page for Professionals.

You can download some of our factsheets if you want to know more about a specific aspect of Direct Payments.

You can download a copy of the ILS leaflet.

If you’re a Direct Payment employer, or thinking about becoming one and want to know more, there are some e-learning modules written specifically for you on the PADE UP website.

You can take a look at the council’s Community Catalogue.

You can look at funding options for training at Skills for Care.

Here are the council’s pages on Direct Payments.


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