Personal budgets for education and social care

Personal budgets and direct payments are a way that individuals can manage their own care and support. There is an increasing drive by the government in recent years to promote it. It has been around in social care for a while but is relatively new in the education arena.

Personal budgets in education

A personal budget is an identified amount of funding that the Local Authority (LA) can give to a child’s parent(s) or a young person (over 16 years) in order to secure particular provision that is specified, or proposed to be specified, in the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

It is possible for the personal budget to be paid directly to the child’s parents or a young person by way of a direct payment, providing the parents of the child or the young person accepts and various conditions are met. If a child or a young person is eligible for a direct payment, the LA must state conditions on how the budget must be used.

There is little legal guidance from The Care Act 2014 or the SEN Code of Practice on how a personal budget may be used. This has meant personal budgets will vary depending on local circumstances and the position of the home LA.

How to request a personal budget?

Personal budgets and direct payments can be requested by a child’s parents or a young person once the LA has agreed to prepare an EHCP or during a statutory review of the EHCP. Local Authorities must consider each request for a personal budget on its individual merits.

An LA will take into consideration whether providing a personal budget will have an adverse impact on services provided or arranged by the LA for other EHCP holders and whether it would be an efficient use of the LA’s resources.

The personal budget can include funding for education, health and/or social care. The intention is that personal budgets will reflect the holistic nature of the EHCP and promote arrangements that will allow for the development of a single fund to be used for all three areas. Currently, it is more common for a personal budget to apply to one or two of these areas.

A personal budget for SEN should be used to personalise a child or young person’s learning support and help attain the outcomes in the EHCP. This allows the child’s parents or young person to use their personal budget to create flexible or specialised learning support, modernising a child or young person’s assistive technology or increasing their access to education or training. A personal budget cannot be used for funding (either partly or fully) a school placement.

Under The Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014 a LA must provide certain information to the child’s parents or the young person receiving the personal budget, including:

  1. The provision for which a personal budget may be available
  2. Details of organisations that provide advice and assistance in connection with personal budgets and
  3. The conditions which must be met before direct payments may be made

If the LA refuses to provide a personal budget they must set out their reasons in writing and parents or the young person can ask for their decision to be reviewed.  A request for review can only be made once.

Details of the proposed personal budget should be included in Section J of the EHCP.  The content of Section J cannot be appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. Therefore, if there is any disagreement with the amount of personal budget/direct payments allocated, this will have to be taken up with the LA.

Social Care

Personal budgets are meant to increase the independence and flexibility of families and young people who have an EHCP. Therefore, LA’s tend to agree that a personal budgets can be spent on almost anything, as long as the service or activity that is purchased meets a person’s assessed needs in their EHCP and:

  1. Is legal
  2. Is not related to the NHS or healthcare
  3. Does not involve household bills and
  4. Does not include ongoing housing costs

A personal budget for social care needs could be used to get help with a child’s personal care, enable a child or a young person to attend leisure activities, fund short breaks such as respite care, pay someone to attend a holiday with the child or young person  or be a personal assistant and for buying and maintaining equipment.

It must be noted that there are restrictions in using direct payments to buy care from close relatives who share your household. However, this is at the discretion of the LA and it may be possible to use the money this way if the LA believes it is the only effective way to meet the  child’s needs. The maximum amount of residential care that can be bought for a child using direct payments is a single period of four weeks, and 120 days in any 12 month period.

The LA will sometimes request parents to contribute or “top up” the personal budget. This may be beneficial if parents want to purchase more expensive equipment or support than the LA is willing to fund.

Examples of how a personal budget can be used

Disability Rights UK outlines a few examples where a personal budget could be used by a young person or a child’s family:

  1. To recruit staff as personal assistants or buy care and support services from care agencies to help meet eligible and assessed needs in the child or young person’s own home. This could be support for personal care, social needs, pursuing indoor/outdoor activities or be part of the local community
  2. Short stays in a care home or respite care (applicable for carers who are given a break from their caring role)
  3. Accessing a wide range of local community social and education activities and mainstream services such as being involved in sports, horse riding, day trips, going to clubs and leisure or learning centres and education sessions
  4. To purchase particular aids and equipment (not provided by NHS) that are required and stated in the support plan as an outcome that needs to be met to promote independence. Direct payments cannot be used to buy equipment already provided by NHS
  5. To pay towards transport costs to undertake a variety of outdoor activities (or attending day centres) identified in the care and support plan and
  6. Attending day services and going to day centres – parents or the young person can arrange for a short trial to visit different day centres to find out about their services and whether they would like to still attend these centres

If you would like to read more on Personal Budgets and Direct Payments please see our factsheet.

This article was written by Laxmi Patel and Grace Hudson. 

I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

Get in touch

Please get in touch 0118 467 6547

Or we are happy to call you back at a time that suits you

Office open Mon - Fri: 08:30 - 18:00