Talking about tomorrow


Direct payments make you a partner, not a passenger

A parent shares her family’s experience of managing their own budget to buy support services in Edinburgh. All local councils decide their own procedures, so please be aware the processes may be different in your area.

I decided to manage our own budget when we found out the council was tendering all social care services and my son’s care package would be sold to the highest bidder. It meant he could be moved to another provider after all the time and trouble it took to create a safe and secure environment around him.

If you don’t have direct payments, in reality your services can be tendered and your child moved at any time. If you have direct payments you control the provider and can act like any customer – if you’re not happy you can move!

I became a Trust and Foundations Fundraiser after my son was born and produced budgets for the projects, so I had some skills already. I think it was good for me to understand more about a care package and how it is put together, the different rates, and the different contracts and providers.

My son has a full package – 24/7 means 168 hours per week. This is broken into different rates, from different providers, and a special rate for overnights. It’s best to set up a new bank account for money to be paid into – for example money from the Independent Living Fund, PIP or DLA. We applied to the Independent Living Fund for money for day services. You can use this bank account to pay the invoices your provider will send you, that they used to send to the council.

In Edinburgh you also get an ALLPAY card from the council pre-loaded with money to pay the rest of the care costs. This is a type of credit card with limitations, so you can only pay through ALLPAY and only to a care provider. They are very helpful – you just call the number they give you, say which provider you want to pay and the invoice number it relates to.

My son’s 24/7 package is around £6000 per month. He gets £1342 from ILF and the rest from his DLA/PIP and social work.

It’s important to keep good records and all the invoices, making a note of when you pay them as you will have 6-monthly meetings with both social work and ILF to see how you are managing the payment system. I had to be my son’s benefits appointee to be able to do this.

We haven’t encountered any problems, although they sometimes send different amounts to the ALLPAY card for no reason, which is strange.

The main challenge is good record keeping. You need to have a folder with all the information and invoices, and check them before you pay. Otherwise it’s easy in that it doesn’t really change much. If you can manage to pay household bills, you can do it!

My advice to parents thinking of doing this is to go ahead. You will have more control over your child’s care – as money gets tighter the tendering process will mean councils go towards cheaper and not necessarily better providers. With direct payments, you choose.

It also means you increase your knowledge about your child’s care package, which in the current climate is a really good idea so if you encounter any problems you will be well informed. It makes you a partner, not a passenger, in their journey.

Be brave! You will soon get the hang of it and it becomes the same thing every month.

Figures are current as of October 2018