Personal budgets

Frequently asked questions on personal budgets for disabled children

What is a personal budget?

Personal budgets are amounts of funding allocated to you from your local council or health authority so you can purchase support to help your family.

They have been available for a while in some areas but now you are legally entitled to one.

Your local authority must tell you about any restrictions they place on what you can spend your budget on. For the first time, health and social care budgets can be added together to have a ‘pooled budget’.

These budgets have been available for adults for some time but this development is new in Children’s Services.

How do I get a personal budget

1. Each Local Authority should set their own criteria for eligibility for personal budgets.

In England, Local Authorities should do this only after consulting with children and families.

2. Speak to your local authority and let them know you are interested in accessing your support in this way.

3. A social worker will do an initial assessment to consider your support needs; the outcomes you want to achieve for your child and how it could be provided.

If the support is not currently part of the “Local Offer”, a resource allocation system will determine the amount of funding your child will receive.

4. You begin to choose how you wish to spend it to meet the outcomes identified in your plan.

Your Local Authority will have a monitoring process which your social worker should be able to explain to you.

5. If you choose to receive the money from your personal budget yourself this will be paid to you (or someone holding the funding on your behalf) as a direct payment.

This will be handled differently depending on your local authority.

How can I use my personal budget

You will be given an indication of the amount of money you will have which will help you when you develop your support plan. The purpose of this plan is to state the outcomes that you want for your child and how this can be achieved with the budget you have been allocated. You can create the support plan yourself.

The plan should include: •

  • What is important to you? 
  • What do you want to achieve? 
  • How will you arrange your support? 
  • How much will it cost?
  • How will you manage your support?

This sounds complicated but it really isn’t.

Local authorities have their own approaches to support planning and your social worker, assessor, Independent Supporter or other key workers will explain the local process to you.

Some examples of Education, Health and Care Plans can be found on the SEND Pathfinders website: http://www.

Once you finish your plan, your local authority needs to agree it. You can then use your personal budget.

The Local Authority needs to authorise how you spend the money and you will need to report back to them every so often.

You don’t just have to use it for traditional services such as Personal Assistants. You can also use it for other things or services.

As long as those ‘things’ help you meet the outcomes that are outlined in your support plan.

What can I spend my personal budget on?

The Department of Health has produced guidance about direct payments which explains how they can be spent.

This guidance explains that you can use your personal budget to buy support in a range of different ways, including:

  • Support in your home, whether it’s equipment or help with personal and domestic activities. 
  • Enabling social inclusion through improving access to services in the community. 
  • Physical and mental wellbeing through, for example, fitness or cultural activities. 
  • Short breaks, which give parents time for other things (like spending time with their other children) and give the disabled child an opportunity to do new things and maybe make new friends.

I don't quite trust this? Am I going to get the same services I had before?

Having a personal budget gives you the opportunity to be creative and imaginative about how you can get the best outcomes for your child and your family.

This may mean trying different approaches to short breaks such as going away as a family with the support of a personal assistant rather than using a traditional overnight residential short break service.

The main reason for having a personal budget is to have the choice, control and flexibility that current services might not offer.

The budget allocated should provide the same level of support you accessed before the social work assessment was carried out.

If the support is different you can inform your local authority.

Do direct payments count as income?

Any money you receive from social or health services in direct payments will not affect any welfare benefits. The direct payments you receive are not liable for income tax.

Personal budget sound like hard work! Do I have to have one?

There are additional things to think about if you do have a personal budget. It may be more work for you; you may technically become an employer.

This approach is not for everyone.

For some, this may feel like one step too far. If this system is not for you, you do not have to have a personal budget.

You can carry on in the same way as before. There is no reason why you can’t have your voice listened to by your Local Authority but they will still arrange services for you.

What do I do if I have a problem?

We would like to hear from you with any problems as we like to let the government know how these kinds of things are really working in practice?

We are a charity whose sole purpose is making sure that every child and young person has the love, support and opportunity they need to reach their full potential.

We know how to support disabled children and young people. We have been doing that since our first project was set up in 1869.

Today we are the largest provider of services to disabled children, young people and their families, working with them from birth to 25 as they move into adulthood. Personalisation is not new to us. Neither is offering safe and reliable services that meet family’s needs, but personal budgets are a new way of delivering support to children.

If there is support that you feel would benefit your child and family, please contact us. 

I live in Scotland, can I get more information online?

In Scotland, the Scottish Parliament passed a law on social care support. The Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013.

This SDS Act gives people a range of options for how their social care is delivered, beyond just direct payments, empowering people to decide how much ongoing control and responsibility they want over their own support arrangements.

The Act requires council’s to offer people four choices on how they can get their social care.

The choices are:

  • Option 1: direct payment
  • Option 2: the person directs the available support
  • Option 3: the local authority arranges the support
  • Option 4: a mix of the above

Other documents to read from the Scottish government

1. Self Directed Support: A Guide for Carers 

2. Directing your own support: A user’s guide to self-directed support in Scotland 




I live in Wales, can I get more information online?


In Wales, statutory guidance to local authorities on how to set up and manage a direct payments scheme was issued in April 2011

Below are links to a summary of the full guidance written for a general audience. 


What's near me?

Find a service nearby

We build our services around what disabled children and young people need.