Paying for care and support

Information about personal budgets, direct payments, how we work out what people contribute and how to get independent financial advice.

Unlike the NHS, social care is not free, and most people have to pay towards the cost of their care and support services. 

There are some services that are free.  

Free services: 

  • Your care needs assessment and financial assessment. 
  • The information and advice we provide. 
  • Services we provide for carers - although we may charge for services we provide to the person they care for, depending on their financial circumstances. 
  • Reablement services - short-term support to help people regain independence following ill health. 
  • Provision of equipment into your home to aid mobility. 
Most people have to pay towards the cost of their care and support services, but people would not be expected to pay more than they can afford based on their income and savings. The amount will depend on your financial circumstances. 

'Self-directed support': what support is available? 

People’s lives shouldn’t have to stop because they are disabled or have a long-term illness. We aim to make sure people can get the support they need to enable them to continue to live in the way they want. 
We offer two kinds of support arrangement: 

  • Crisis support for people who urgently need help after a health crisis or a serious accident. 
  • Self-directed support for people with longer-term support needs. 

Crisis support focuses on making sure people’s immediate needs are met, helping them to recover and to become independent. Many people only need crisis support. 
Self-directed support aims to put people in charge of their own support arrangements. People are offered a personal budget which they are encouraged to manage themselves, or with help from family and friends. We can also make arrangements on people's behalf. 
We set the amount of the personal budget based on a shared assessment. Personal budgets can be used flexibly to overcome obstacles to living the way you want caused by illness or disability. For instance: 

  • If you need support with day-to-day tasks or if you need someone to be on hand to make sure you are safe, you can use a personal budget to employ someone or to make arrangements so people you know can help you. 
  • If you need support to take part in social, leisure or educational activities, you can use a personal budget to arrange that. 
  • If family members or friends who usually provide you with support need a break, you can use a personal budget to make whatever arrangements are necessary. 

You will need to agree a support plan with us, setting out how you will use your personal budget. We will check this is safe and legal. We can help you to draw up support plans, or if you want you can do it yourself. 
We will review your personal budget and your support plan at intervals to check whether any changes are needed. 

You can find out more about how we work out what people contribute below.

Direct Payments

Direct payments are made to people who require support at home, day care, short breaks or special equipment and who wish to organise these services themselves. 
Under our direct payments scheme, we pay you the cost of the service and you can then make your own arrangements. 


Who can use direct payments? 

Anyone aged 16 or over, assessed by a care manager as needing community care, has a right to opt for direct payments, though there are a few restrictions: 

  • You must be willing and able to manage the paperwork and responsibilities involved (with someone helping if necessary). 
  • You may not be eligible if you have been detained under mental health legislation. 
Carers can only get direct payments to replace services provided directly to them. They can’t get money to buy services for the person they care for. 


What can direct payments be used for? 

Direct payments can be used to pay for: 

  • personal assistance (e.g. help from an agency) 
  • daytime care, short breaks or special equipment 

They can not be used to pay for: 

  • general living expenses (e.g. fuel bills) 
  • health or housing services 
  • services provided by a public-sector organisation 
  • long-term residential care 
  • your live-in partner or relative  


How much would the direct payment be? 

Direct payments are based on the amount and type of care you need. This is assessed by a care manager. 

You can choose to receive direct payments for all your care, or only for some parts of it. 
We will agree a reasonable cost for the care, including money for recruiting staff, insurance, wages and other costs such as national insurance, holiday, sickness and maternity pay. Usually this will be based on an hourly rate for the care needed. 
We cannot pay more than it would cost if we arranged the service ourselves. 
We will assess how much you can afford to pay yourself towards the cost of your support, using the same rules that apply to charges for services. You either pay this separately or have it subtracted from your direct payments. 


What would my responsibilities be? 

If you choose direct payments, you will have to: 

  • Open a separate bank account specifically to use for your direct payment. 
  • Use the money to pay for the help your community care assessment shows you need. 
  • Keep records of how the money is used. 
  • Be accountable for the way the money is spent. 
  • Be responsible for arranging your own care (including back up arrangements). 
  • Take on the responsibilities of an employer if you employ your own staff. 


Can I get help managing direct payments? 

The person receiving direct payment must be able to make decisions about the support they buy in, but they can get help with the day-to-day management of things like paperwork. This can come from us, from family or friends, or through legal arrangements like a trust or power of attorney. 
For instance, you may want help with: 

  • How to recruit and select personal assistants. 
  • How to write job descriptions and contracts. 
  • How to become an employer. 
  • How to deal with tax and national insurance.  


What monitoring & review would there be? 

You will continue to have a care manager, who reviews your circumstances regularly. If your needs have changed, or if the rules about how much support we can provide have changed, this may lead to an increase or reduction in payments. 
We would also do an annual check on how you are using the money and what services you have arranged. 


Are self-directed support & personal budgets the same as direct payments? 

No, a personal budget is how much money you are eligible to receive to pay for your support, based on the new system called self-directed support. It is calculated based on an assessment of your needs. 
Direct payments are just one way in which people can be given their personal budget. 


Further practical information 

Direct payments will not affect your social security benefits or tax liabilities. 
You can ask at any time to stop getting direct payments and change to services arranged by us. If your needs are complex, we will need some notice to sort this out. 

Social service - contact information 

To find out more, talk to your care manager, or contact: 
Direct payments team 

Adult social care 

Some people will be assessed as being able to pay all the costs of their care and support themselves, but we will still offer help and advice if they want it.

As a general guide, since April 2018 people with savings of more than £23,250 were expected to pay the maximum charge, and pensions and other income were also taken into account. Please check information sheet C8 on paying for care and support for the latest information on charges for support if you are living at home, or information sheet C9 for charges for people living in a care home. 

You can find all our information sheets here.


How to get independent financial advice   

If you have care and support needs, or if you are a carer, this may affect many areas of your life, including your financial commitments. This section explains some of the issues you may need to think about. Contact details for organisations are in the next section.  

Financial issues about paying for care and support services  

Costs and contract terms for care and support services which you arrange yourself.  

Charges for care and support services which we arrange.  

  • Our information sheet C8 and information sheet C9 explain charges in Northumberland. 
  • Our financial assessment and benefits officers, who carry out financial assessments, can explain in more detail how you may be affected. 

"Deferred payments" when moving into a care home  

  • The financial assessment and benefits officer carrying out your financial assessment can explain how deferred payments work.  We recommend that you also get independent financial advice (see contact details below). 

Specific financial issues for carers  

Getting access to bank accounts and savings accounts of the person you are looking after, if they have become unable to do so themselves  

Additional day-to-day costs (e.g. because you have a special diet, or you have higher heating costs, or you need to use taxis to get around).  

  • There are social security benefits available to help with these costs, which are not means tested or taxed (Attendance Allowance for older people; Personal Independence Payment for working-age adults).  
  • If you have a financial assessment to decide how much you can afford to pay towards the cost of care and support, this will include advice about benefits.  Otherwise, we recommend contacting local advice services (see below)  

Making choices about where to live – for instance to make sure that help is on hand when you need it, or that you don't become isolated.  

  • Age UK provides independent advice about housing choices. 

You may have to give up work and adjust to a lower income than you had planned.  

  • Information and advice about managing personal finances and budgeting are available from the Money Helper
  • You can check what state benefits you might be able to claim if you reduce hours or give up work completely by visiting Turn2Us or by contacting local advice services (see below).  

You may be worried that if your health gets worse you might not be able to look after your own finances.  If so, we recommend thinking now about how you would want your affairs to be managed if that happened.  

  • You can make arrangements now for someone to have “lasting power of attorney” if you ever become unable to make financial decisions yourself.    
  • Age UK have information about this or you could telephone Age UK Northumberland on (01670) 784800. 

Local advice services  

  • Citizens Advice provides information and advice about a wide range of topics, including money, state benefits, housing and employment You can telephone Monday to Friday 9:30am to 4:30pm on 03 444 111 444. 
  • Age UK’s Information and Advice service advises people aged 50 or over, and their families or carers, about benefits, care and support, housing and home adaptations, disability, wills and powers of attorney. You can phone them Monday to Thursday between 10:00am and 1:00pm on (01670) 784800.
There are many individuals, companies and not for profit organisations who offer financial advice.

  • Independent Financial Advisers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority who maintain a Financial Services Register. 
  • Paying for Care is a not-for-profit website that gives information about the financial aspects of care and can help you to identify an adviser that may be able to help you. 
  • Which? provides information about paying for care online. 
  • The Society of later life advisers (SOLLA) helps people and their families to find trusted, accredited financial advisers who understand financial needs later in life. You can contact them by calling 0845 303 2909