Direct Payments - Frequently Asked Questions

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Direct payments give you more choice and control over the support you need. You can organise more flexible arrangements that suit you best.    

To get a direct payment you need an assessment of your personal needs by a social worker. If you are eligible for support from Cheshire East Council, a social worker will agree a plan of how your needs can be met.

There can be a lot to learn when first using direct payments, especially if they are used to employ a personal assistant (PA). People using direct payments will need to keep records of the money they receive and spend, which means keeping receipts and invoices, and managing their bank account.

You may be asked to pay part of the costs towards your support. This will be based on a financial assessment.

Direct payments offer flexibility and choice about how to meet your care and support needs, but they should be spent in line with the support plan that you agree with your social worker. 

Examples of what you can use them for: 

  • Support with daily life and activities
  • Support to get out and about
  • Household tasks such as preparing meals, laundry and cleaning
  • Support with personal care, such as showering and dressing
  • Keeping in touch with family and friends
  • Supporting family carers when they need respite or a break

Some flexibility is allowed over what you buy with your Direct Payments as your needs will naturally vary over time. However, if you wish to change the services you buy or your needs change significantly you should speak to your social worker about this. In an emergency the Council can step in and provide help if needed. This might mean taking over arranging a person’s care services.

The amount you receive as a Direct Payment is likely to change over time. This is because:

  • Your social care needs may change
  • Your financial contribution towards the direct payment is reviewed annually.
  • The costs of services in your local area may change.

The Council must always make sure that the money you have as a Direct Payment can meet your eligible care and support needs. However, this will be judged against services in general in your area. If the specific service that you use becomes more costly, the Council is unlikely to increase its Direct Payment contribution. Similarly, we may feel that other services could meet your needs and adjust your Direct Payment amount accordingly.

No, Direct Payments are only to be used to pay for your care needs so cannot be viewed as income on which you have to pay tax.

A list of things that it cannot be spent on: 

  • Anything against the law
  • Housing adaptations or improvements
  • Medicines, health care and equipment the NHS would be expected to provide (a PA can support someone to a health-related appointment of therapy)
  • Household bills
  • Long-term residential care 

Your direct payment will support the cost of services agreed in your support plan.

If this is the case you just need to tell us that you no longer wish to have Direct Payments. We will speak with you to arrange services to meet your needs.

No, you can’t buy services from the Council with a Direct Payment. However, you can choose to have a mix of solutions. This would be where you would receive services from the Council as well as an amount of money as a Direct Payment. You should speak to your social worker to understand how this could work.

If you are unsure what you should use your Direct Payment for, you should speak to your social worker for advice. Discussion should take place on this though before your Direct Payment is set up.

If you have bought services from a care agency then you should speak to a member of staff at the care agency if you are unhappy. They should also have a complaints process that you can follow.

If you are unhappy with a personal assistant that you employ, you should discuss the issues with them to see if you can resolve the problem. You might also want to speak to PeoplePlus for advice and support.

If this is the case the Council will take steps to cease the direct payment and to meet your needs in alternative ways.

A family member living in the same household should not be paid to meet the care needs of the adult. There can be short-term exemptions or specific circumstances that make it necessary to employ a person from the same household but this must be agreed with the local authority.

Not everyone who uses direct payments chooses to employ a personal assistant.

If an individual isn't comfortable about being an employer, they can use direct payments to buy services from an agency, or they can access support services that will help them to be an employer or use self-employed PA services.

Direct payments are designed to be flexible but you can agree to ‘bank’ some payments for contingencies in your support plan. If it turns out that you didn't need as much as expected, an adjustment will be made in the following year, or you may be asked to refund the 'banked' money.

Personal assistants can provide a range of care and support. Their role will depend on the needs of the individual. They may not need personal care but support with day to day living tasks or getting out and about. They will be supporting the person to achieve the goals and outcomes agreed in their support plan.

Direct payments are not a form of income. They are given to pay for services or equipment to meet peoples’ care and support needs. This means that they don’t affect benefit entitlement or income tax.

If an individual has does not have 'capacity' to agree to a direct payment (mental capacity is the ability to make your own decisions), they may have a friend or family member who already supports them with decision making. They may have a 'power of attorney' or 'court-appointed deputy' who may be able and willing to manage the direct payment on their behalf, or another appropriate person can be agreed to act as an authorised person.

Just as for a person managing their care themselves, it is important that this person has a separate bank account for this money to avoid it being confused with other sums. They will also have to keep accurate records in the same way as well.

Cheshire East Council has a Direct Payment Support Service provided by a company called from PeoplePlus who can offer you practical support on setting up and managing your direct payment. They can be contacted at

PeoplePlus Direct Payments team: 0330 123 2815


Page last reviewed: 26 April 2024

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