Personal budgets for EHC Plan
Introduction - what is an education personal budget for a child or young person with SEND?
An SEN personal budget is an amount of money to deliver some, or all of, the support set out in a child or young person’s education, health and care (EHC) plan, to help them meet specific outcomes.
In certain circumstances, an SEN personal budget may extend choice, control and independence for some parents or young people. It can build on the personalisation that is an essential part of the assessment and planning process for all children and young people with SEND.
An SEN personal budget will generally only be agreed where the support requested is not normally delivered by an existing service and will not be used to provide extra support on top of what services normally deliver, e.g. dyslexia support outside school in addition to what is provided by the education setting.
Personal budgets can also be agreed for social care or health reasons. These services can advise separately on the arrangements in place for their own budgets.
What a SEN personal budget cannot be used for
There are specific things that a SEN personal budget cannot be used for. These include:
- funding a school placement, whether that is in the maintained or independent sectors and whether the place is in an early-years setting, school or college
- purchasing SEN services directly from the council or NHS services
- employment of family members living in the same household, other than on exceptional basis
The use of a SEN personal budget must be linked to the Outcomes set out in section E of your child or young person’s EHC Plan. It cannot, therefore, be used to provide anything which has not been agreed by the Local Authority or does not help meet the Outcomes set out in the plan.
Eligibility for a SEN personal budget
To be eligible for an SEN personal budget, a child or young person must have an EHC Plan.
A SEN personal budget must be used to provide support linked to outcomes in a child or young person’s EHC Plan. Depending on the eligibility criteria (see below), this could include support across the four elements of SEN: cognition and learning; communication and interaction; social, emotional and mental health; and sensory and physical needs.
There are several instances where it might be appropriate for support to be made available through an SEN personal budget. These include:
- where the local authority and young person, or their family where they are under 16, agree that education other than in a school or post-16 educational setting is the right provision for an individual;
- where the local authority and young person, or child’s family where they are under 16, agree that education should be provided by a joint placement between an educational facility and time outside that facility; or
- the education or support needed cannot be provided at a mainstream school, special school or post-16 setting, or is not typically provided by the school the individual attends or is not normally available in the local area.
The scope for an SEN personal budget can vary depending on which education placement the child or young person attends, and the level of specialised support needed. Special schools and specialist colleges make some support available as part of their core offer of services which are not normally available at mainstream schools and colleges. Therefore if an individual goes to a special school, there may be more limited scope for an SEN personal budget, whereas the choice of a place in a mainstream school that does not make that particular provision might increase the opportunity for an SEN personal budget if services are not separately provided by the Local Authority, NHS or the educational setting.
An SEN personal budget cannot be agreed where it is the local authority’s view that a student’s needs would best be met in a particular education environment and a family decides not to take up or continue the placement and decides to home educate instead.
There are some key principles that any SEN personal budget must meet. One can only be agreed where:
- It gives value for money – i.e. it costs the same or less than providing the support in a different way, or the cost is not significantly more than it would be if it were provided in a different way.
- Agreeing to the SEN personal Budget for one child does not reduce the ability to provide other services, such as Speech and Language Therapies, literacy support or Occupational Therapy to other children or young people with EHC Plans
- if any of the funding for an SEN personal budget comes from a school or college, or if the support will be delivered at school or on college premises, the Head of the school or college has given their agreement.
If a parent, carer or young person employs someone through an SEN personal budget who will be working in an early-years setting, school or college premises, this employee must agree to conform to the policies and procedures of that institution.
How an SEN personal budget can be delivered
There are four ways an SEN personal budget can be arranged. These are:
- Direct payments – where a sum of money is individually calculated to meet an individual’s needs and the parents/carers, young person or a person nominated on behalf of the individual receives the amount of money agreed as the personal budget. This person is responsible for contracting, buying and managing the support and services needed. Direct payments can be used to meet all or part of your agreed needs
- A notional budget – where a sum of money is individually calculated to meet an individual’s needs and the local authority or education setting holds the funds on behalf of the individual and arranges for the support specified in the EHC Plan to be provided for the child or young person
- Third party arrangements - where the money is paid to, and managed by, an organisation on behalf of the family or young person
- A combination of the above, where an SEN personal budget could include an element of direct payment and also an element of a notional budget or a third-party arrangement
How to request an SEN personal budget
There are two points in the EHC plan processes where a young person or their parent/carers may request an SEN personal budget. The first is once the Local Authority has confirmed that it will issue an EHC plan following an EHC needs assessment. The other one is as part of the annual review process which must take place once a year.
Once a request for an SEN personal budget, and the support you would like it to cover has been received, the Local Authority will check whether funding could be allocated for that support. If it can, the Local Authority will calculate an approximate amount of funding that could be made available for the type of needs identified through the assessment process. Any final budget agreed is likely to be different to this indicative amount as it will be calculated to meet the child or young person’s individual circumstances and the actual support it is designed to meet.
Asking about an SEN personal budget does not mean you have to have one after receiving further information and discussions with the council.
Monitoring and administrative arrangements for an SEN personal budget
Where an SEN personal budget is to be delivered through a direct payment to a young person, their parent/carer or nominated person, we will send them an agreement covering the:
- name of the child or young person the SEN personal budget is for
- level of the SEN personal budget agreed
- areas of support and outcomes from the EHC plan the funding supports including the goods and services the budget provides for
- processes for administering and monitoring the payment and spending of the SEN personal budget.
This agreement must be signed and returned before any payments can be made.
A separate bank account must be set up which is only used for the SEN personal budget and statements will need to be provided to meet our accounting arrangements. This ensures the continued privacy of your personal finances. Payments will normally be made monthly or quarterly in advance in agreement with the young person or family.
Where an SEN personal budget is delivered through a notional budget held by the Local Authority, the provision supplied would be monitored against the funds agreed using our procurement and accountancy arrangements. Where the budget is administered by an education provider, an agreement would be drawn up between the Local Authority and the provider to set out the services the budget was agreed to deliver and the responsibilities of the provider to monitor and account for the delivery of the support to meet the outcomes set out in the EHC Plan. This agreement would also include the accounting arrangements.
Where an element of the SEN personal budget has not been used to deliver the outcomes set out in the EHC Plan, future levels of funding may be reduced to reflect this. If funds continue to remain unspent, or if the agreement is ceased, the Local Authority can require that this funding is returned to us.
Stopping an SEN personal budget
Under certain conditions a local authority must stop making direct payments. These include where:
- the recipient has told the local authority in writing that he or she no longer consents to receive the direct payments
- the recipient is judged to not be capable to manage direct payments or no longer has the capacity to consent to the making of direct payments to them
- following a review under the monitoring arrangements, it appears to the local authority that payment is not being used to buy the agreed provision
- providing support through an SEN personal budget would reduce the Council’s ability to provide services to other children and young people with EHC Plans;
- the SEN personal budget option no longer provides value for money; or
- it the SEN personal budget is not being used to meet the outcomes set out in the EHC Plan.
Where a local authority decides to stop making direct payments, the local authority must first give notice in writing to the recipient setting out the reasons for its decision.
Where the council decides not to agree to an SEN personal budget request
Where we decide not to agree a request for a SEN personal budget or do not agree an element of support requested, we will write to you to explain why. If this is the case, you may ask for a formal review of that decision. The Local Authority will carry out a review using the information available, including any new information provided to us. Following the review, we will write to you with our final decision.
People who can have a SEN personal budget paid by direct payment
A local authority may make direct payments, as appropriate, to
- the parent of a child aged 16 or under
- A young person over compulsory school age
- a person nominated in writing by the child’s parent or the young person to receive direct payments on their behalf
Direct payments may only be made if the person
- appears to the local authority to be capable of managing direct payments without assistance or with such assistance as may be available to them;
- is over compulsory school age;
- does not lack capacity within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to consent to the making of direct payments to them or to secure the agreed provision with any direct payment; and
- is not within one of the groups that SEN personal budgets cannot be made to as set out in the SEN personal budget Regulations 2014. These are listed in a schedule to the regulations.
Where an SEN personal budget paid by direct payment is for someone under the age of 16, their parents/carers have control of the management and spend of the agreed SEN personal budget. This changes when the young person has turned 16 and left Year 11 at school, when the responsibility for the SEN personal budget transfers to them. They may also nominate their parent, carer or someone else to manage their budget on their behalf.
Thinking about what opportunities and support exists in the community
SEN personal budgets are only one part of the approach to personalisation and are most effective when best use can be made of all the other support, activities and opportunities that exist.
Every family should have access to opportunities in, and things on offer in their community. This includes all the people family members know, all the skills and knowledge represented by members of the community, their assets, their access to services and their resilience.
Children and young people can access many activities and services in their community, such as leisure facilities, out of school clubs and activity-focused groups. These services and groups are available to the whole community, whether or not children or young people have SEND. We would normally expect parents to support their children using their own funds for activities such as this, rather than requesting support through an SEN personal budget where their child has an EHC Plan.
Where can I find more information about personal budgets?
Find out more from our SEN team:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 01743 254366
You can also contact the Information Advice and Support Service:
Or the Citizens Advice service:
For funding advice, take a look at the Department for Education's Making it Personal leaflet.