What are direct payments?

Direct payments are one part of social services care funding called a Personal Budget (see ‘What is a Personal Budget’ factsheet).

Direct payments are paid to residents by Waltham Forest Council to enable them to buy services they have been assessed as needing. Direct Payments can be given to:

  • disabled people aged 16 or over,
  • people with parental responsibility for disabled children,
  • carers aged 16 or over in respect of carer services,
  • residents with mental health needs.

The aim of direct payments is to give more flexibility in how services are provided to residents who are assessed as eligible for support. This gives residents greater choice and control over their lives, and enables them to make their own decisions about how their care is delivered.

Direct Payments budgets are regularly monitored by the council to check they are  being used to meet the resident’s assessed needs..

Who can get direct payments?

Most residents who have been assessed as needing support can choose to have direct payments. This includes residents with:

  • physical or sensory impairment
  • learning difficulties
  • mental health problems
  • a long-term illness or who need help because of the effects of growing older.

You can also choose to receive a direct payment if you are a:

  • carer who has been assessed as needing support in your own right
  • parent of a disabled child – for services that support you in bringing up your child.

You can ask for direct payments if you wish to be in control of the services you need, and you are able to arrange and manage those services, either by yourself or with help.

You do not have to be able to do everything yourself. As long as you stay in charge of what happens you can have as much help as you need to be arrange how the direct payments are used to meet your assessed needs.

What can a direct payment be used for?

You can use direct payments to arrange support to meet your individual needs. You can decide what sort of help you need, how you want the help to be provided and the times when you want to have help. This support might include personal care like washing and dressing  but it covers a wide range of possible needs. We therefore use the word support rather than care.

Direct payments are not extra money to spend as you wish. The money must be used to meet the support needs for which Waltham Forest Council have agreed you need help. You can do this by:

  • employing your own support staff
  • buying services from private care agencies
  • paying for daytime opportunities.

Direct payments can also be used for one-off or occasional services, such as buying short periods of respite care, or buying equipment to help you stay independent.

You can ‘mix and match’ your care as you feel appropriate. You can continue to have some services arranged by Waltham Forest Council whilst you having the rest of your assessed needs met by direct payments.

Is there anything I cannot use direct payments for?

Direct payments cannot be used to buy long-term residential or nursing care. You cannot use direct payments to buy a service that is managed by Waltham Forest Council.
Unless exceptional circumstances apply, you cannot pay a relative or partner who lives with you for the support they provide. The restrictions are not intended to prevent you from employing live-in personal assistants. What is important is that the relationship between you and your personal assistant must be contractual rather than personal.

What are the advantages of direct payments?

You are in control. You can choose who supports you, how they support you and when they come to meet your assessed needs. Individuals who use direct payments enjoy the flexibility and choice that this can bring, and frequently comment on how they have gained greater dignity, confidence, and control over how they live their lives.

How much will I get?

Before you can get direct payments you need to be assessed in the same way as you would for any service provided by Waltham Forest Council. This is done via a Self Assessment Questionnaire which is completed by you with your social worker. The Self Assessment Questionnaire is a way of finding out what your need. This information will be put into a process which will  indicate the weekly amount Waltham Forest Council think you need to meet your support needs.

Before you get the funding you will be asked to say how you will use that money to meet your assessed needs. This will be written down into a document called a Support Plan.

Will my benefits be affected?

No, direct payments are to be used only for meeting your assessed support needs and is not counted as extra income. Direct payments will not be taken into account by the Benefits Agency.

Will I be liable for tax?

No, direct payments can only to be used to pay for your support needs and so cannot be assessed as income on which you have to pay tax.

Will I have to pay anything?

You may have to contribute to the cost of your services. The exact amount will depend on your income and savings, but it will be the same amount as you would be charged for services had Waltham Forest Council provided them directly. The finance team in Waltham Forest Council will complete an assessment with you to work out whether you have to pay a contribution.

What happens if I start having direct payments and find it does not work for me?

You simply tell Waltham Forest Council you no longer wish to have direct payments and they will then arrange to provide services to meet your needs.

Help in managing Direct Payment

Residents can choose anyone to help them manage their direct payments and organise their support arrangements. Reaching Out East is responsible for providing support on  direct payments  and we can help you with all relevant issues.

Advisors can:

  • Explain Direct Payments
  • Help in finding staff or using agencies
  • Give health and safety advice
  • Support in all aspects of employment


What do I do next?

If you have not already had an assessment of your social care needs, you must  have this first. You can ask for an assessment  by contacting  Waltham Forest Council on 020 8496 3000 and asking for Adult Social Care. If you have someone in your family who cares for you informally you can ask for them to have a Carer’s assessment at the same time.

If you have or are about to have a Direct Payment and need help or advice with this please call 020 8519 6369 option 2 and ask for one of the Direct Payments Team.