The Government are encouraging independent living by giving you more choice on how your needs are met. They have done this by setting up different systems to give you money so you can choose and pay for your own support and services.

This part of the website gives you some basic information about each of these systems and how they work. The help available to you might be different depending on which part of the UK you live in. We have tried to show where there are differences.

The systems listed below all have one thing in common – you can use the money given to you to pay for someone (a personal assistant) to provide the help and support you need to live independently. By doing this, you may become an employer and have to deal with responsibilities such as tax, national insurance, paying wages and employment law.

This website has been set-up to help you with these new responsibilities by explaining them and offering guidance and support. We also offer some tools to help you get it right.

Click on each of the + plus signs below to find out more about each system.

Personal Budgets (Social Care – England), Individual Budgets (Scotland),

Who runs it?

Local Authorities/Local Councils or Social Care/Social Services departments.

What is it?

If you are entitled to receive support (sometimes called Self Directed Support) from your Local Authority/Council you will be given a personal budget to spend on meeting your needs.

It not only covers care but also other things like education social and family needs. You can use it for many things such as employing a personal assistant to help you get dressed in the morning, going out to clubs you enjoy or taking part in leisure activities. In fact you can use it on anything that is agreed by your Local Authority as meeting your ‘eligible needs’.

You can choose how to spend your personal budget. You can ask for the cash so that you can pay for your own support and services. These cash payments are called ‘direct payments’. If you prefer, you can ask social services to organise and pay for the support you need from your personal budget.

In Scotland, personal budgets are called individual budgets. The rules are slightly different.

Personal Budgets are not available in Northern Ireland and Wales, but you can still get direct payments (click on the plus sign below to find out more).

Personal Budget payments (direct payments) are not taxable. Nor will they affect any benefits you receive.

Where can I find out more?

Use the following links to find out more about personal budgets:

Disability Rights UK factsheet

Age UK website

Use the following links to find out more about individual budgets in Scotland:

Self Directed Support Scotland

Direct payments (Social Care – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Who runs it?

Local Authorities/Local Councils – Social Care/Social Services departments.

What is it?

Direct payments allow you to receive cash payments which you can use to pay for the support and services you need instead of receiving the help directly from social services.

In England they are one way of receiving your personal budget (see above) and in Scotland a way of receiving your individual budget. In Wales and Northern Ireland they are one way of meeting your social care needs. 

They give you more flexibility by allowing you to choose how to spend the money, providing that you are meeting the needs as assessed by your Local Authority.

For example, if you are assessed as needing someone to help you get dressed each day, in the past social services would have arranged for one of their employees to come in each day to help you. You would not have had much choice over who the person was or what time they came to see you. With direct payments you can receive a cash payment instead and then employ a personal assistant who you have selected or choose an agency that you can pay to send someone each day at a time that suits you.

The rules for direct payments depend on whether you are in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Direct payments are not taxable and do not affect any benefits you may receive.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more in our direct payments (social care) section.

Personal Health Budgets (England only)

Who runs it?

NHS (England only).

What is it?

A personal health budget is similar to social care personal budgets. It is an amount of money set aside by the NHS to help you meet your health needs that have been agreed.

You can choose how to use your personal health budget. You can ask the NHS to arrange services on your behalf, you can have another organisation hold and spend the money on your behalf or you can receive a direct payment for healthcare. A direct payment means that you receive the cash payment to buy the care and support you need yourself. This is similar to direct payments from social services. Personal health budgets were piloted in parts of the England from March 2012. From April 2014, everyone who qualifies for NHS continuing health care in England has a right to ask for a personal health budget. 

Personal health budget payments are not taxable and do not affect any benefits you may receive.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more in our personal health budgets section.

Access to Work (England, Scotland and Wales)

Who runs it?

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

What is it?

The access to work scheme is run by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and gives grants to help people into work or to stay in work. You may qualify for help if you are disabled or have a health or mental health condition.

The money can be used to pay for a wide range of things such as adaptations to the equipment you use, buying special equipment, fares to work if you can’t use public transport and even a support worker to help you in your workplace. You can apply for help whether you are employed or self-employed.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more in our access to work section.

Access to Work (Northern Ireland)

Who runs it?

Jobs and Benefits Office

What is it?

The access to work scheme gives grants to help people into work or to stay in work. You may qualify for help if you are disabled or have a health or mental health condition.

The money can be used to pay for a wide range of things such as adaptations to the equipment you use, buying special equipment, fares to work if you can’t use public transport and even a support worker to help you in your workplace. You can apply for help whether you are employed or self-employed.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more in our access to work section.