Over time, myths about direct payments have developed that have put some people off using them. We want to set the record straight in this myth-busting section.
Myth 1 - direct payments are complicated to use
There can be a lot to learn when first using direct payments, especially if they're used to employ a personal assistant (PA).
People using direct payments will need to keep records of the money they receive and spend, which means keeping receipts and invoices, and managing their bank account. Find out more from our 'Responsibilities as an employer' page.
However, the opportunity to arrange support that suits you best can be worth the responsibility, and we'll do as much as we can to support you to make the most of a direct payment.
Myth 2 - direct payments aren’t available to children
Families can obtain direct payments to meet the care and support needs of of any age child who is eligible for certain social care services. They can also use them to pay for support or breaks for parent carers. Young people who are 16+ may be able to have a direct payment paid to them in their own right.
Myth 3 - direct payments are only for employing assistants (PAs)
A great thing about direct payments is the opportunity to be creative. Employing a PA is one of many options to meet an individual's personal wellbeing outcomes.
For example, direct payments can be used to buy equipment, pay for activities to reduce loneliness or isolation or to develop confidence. A gym membership could be used join in with a local community and get healthier. Transport could be used to get out and about to places of interest.
If you have any ideas of what support or activities could help you meet your eligible needs and goals, discuss them with your social care worker. There are a few things a direct payment can't be used for, but any ideas you have will be considered in your specific circumstances.
Myth 4 - you must be an employer to use direct payments
Not everyone who uses direct payments chooses to employ a PA. Not everyone who has a PA will choose to become an employer.
If an individual isn't comfortable being an employer, they can use direct payments to buy services from an agency or use self-employed PA services.
Myth 5 - you can't use direct payments to employ family members living in the same household
The Care and Support (Direct Payments) Regulations 2014 state that a family member living in the same household shouldn't be paid to meet the care needs of the adult unless the local authority considers it necessary. This is where the idea of exceptional circumstances comes from. There can be short-term exemptions or specific circumstances that make it necessary to employ a person from the same household.
Myth 6 - you can’t bank unspent direct payments funds
Direct payments are designed to be flexible, and you can agree to ‘bank’ some payments for contingencies in your support plan. If it turns out that you didn't need as much as expected, an adjustment will be made in the following year, or you may be asked to refund the 'banked' money. You'll need to honour any contractual arrangements you have with your employees. If you've delayed buying a service or item but still need the money to do this it can be carried over into the next year, providing it's spent in an agreed time.
Myth 7 - people can spend direct payments on anything
Individuals will agree with their local authority on how to meet their care and support needs, or support needs for carers. Direct payments offer flexibility and choice about how to meet care and support needs, but they should be spent in line with the support plan that you agree. If the individual’s needs change, the support plan can be reviewed.
A list of things that it cannot be spent on:
- Anything against the law
- Housing adaptations or improvements
- Medicines, healthcare and equipment the NHS would be expected to provide (this doesn’t mean that a PA can't support someone to a health-related appointment or therapy)
- Household bills
- Long-term residential care
Myth 8 - a PA can only be employed to provide personal care
PAs can provide a range of care and support. Their role will depend on the individual or carer and the role they've advertised and recruited for. The PAs will be supporting the person to achieve the goals and outcomes agreed in their support plan.
This may include:
- Help with getting washed, dressed or preparing meals
- Support for a carer to give them a break or chance to pursue interest/hobbies
- Support for a carer to maintain their well-being
- Support with activities such as going swimming and attending evening classes or social activities
- Support with getting out, voluntary or paid work and understanding daily tasks, such as paying bills and responding to letters
Myth 9 - direct payments are only for disabled people
Direct payments can be used by anyone who has an eligible support need. For instance, older people, parents of children with care and support needs, carers over 16 or people who have mental health issues are all eligible to use direct payments.
Myth 10 - direct payments affect benefit entitlements
Direct payments aren't a form of income. They're given to pay for services or equipment to meet people’s care and support needs. This means that they don’t affect benefit entitlement or income tax.
Myth 11 - everybody should have direct payments
Direct payments won't suit everybody. Some individuals and carers prefer the services their local authority arranges for them.
Myth 12 - there are some groups of people who can’t use direct payments, for example people living with dementia
Everyone who is assessed as eligible for care and support and carers eligible for support should be made aware that direct payments are an option for them, and how they could be used. If someone has difficulty understanding this they may not have 'capacity' to agree to a direct payment (mental capacity is the ability to make your own decisions).
In this situation they may have a friend or family member who already supports them with decision making. They may have a 'power of attorney' or 'court-appointed deputy' who may be able and willing to manage the direct payment on their behalf, or another appropriate person can be agreed by us to act as an authorised person.