Frequently asked questions

If there's anything you need to know, you can find some of the questions that people often ask below - simply click on a question to see the answer.

What is Self-Directed Support?

Self-Directed Support is a new system for providing social care that will help people take control of their own support. Self-Directed Support has been developed largely around the needs of people for social care but it can equally apply to needs for health care, housing, income-support or anything else which is needed to lead your life the way YOU want to.

The defining characteristics of Self-Directed Support are that:

  • The support is controlled by the person who needs it.
  • The level of support is agreed in a way which is fair, open and flexible.
  • Any additional help needed to plan and find support is provided by people who are as close as possible to the person needing support.
  • The person who needs support controls the financial resources for their support. This is THEIR money.
  • All of the above is carried out in a manner which conforms to an agreed set of ethical principles.

Self-Directed Support started in the United Kingdom in the Independent Living Movement of people with physical impairments, who campaigned in the 1980s and 1990s for the introduction of Direct Payments. At around the same time, Independent Living Funds were introduced to help a small number of disabled people to control some of the money they needed for personal care. The idea of Support Brokerage then arose - this is an approach to help people to organise their own support.

In 2003 In Control was set up - an organisation that aims to encourage Self-Directed Support - and help people live their lives they way they want to. Since that point, Self-Directed Support has been shaped by the individuals, families and Councils that have volunteered to test and improve it. By early 2008 more than three quarters of Councils in England were involved in Self-Directed Support. Councils are now working towards using Self-Directed Support as the approach for everyone needing social care support.

Common Myths about Self-Directed Support

There are a lot of misconceptions about Self-Directed Support. You can find answers to some of the most common myths here.

I am the owner of a residential care home and I am concerned that Self-Directed Support will mean an end to residential care

This is not correct. People should be able to choose the option that is right for them. If someone chooses residential care (or any other form of support) it should be their real choice. Self-Directed Support will result in information being more accessible. So, when choosing or using residential care (or any other option), the person should know how much it costs and that they can use that money to choose a different option if and when they want.

I would love to think that my daughter could be in control of her life but she would not be able to manage her own money or support. Is there anything we can do?

There are lots of different ways that people can take control of their lives. People do not have to deal with cash themselves to be in control of what their money is used to buy. There are six different ways for people to control a Personal Budget, including taking the money as a direct payment, using an Independent Living Trust, a broker or a provider (an Individual Service Fund).

People can take the degree of control they are comfortable with and they can still get a care manager to manage the money. Similarly, it is not necessary for the person to manage the support. They may have someone they can ask to do this, or they may use part of the money to pay someone to do it. The important thing is that the person has as much control as they want - not who does the job of managing.

I have worked really hard to have a career in Social Care and now I am worried that Self-Directed Support will put me out of work

There is no indication that this will be the case. It is likely that, however the system is organised, professionals will play an important role. But Self-Directed Support does mean that professional roles are changing.

The social care system is there to enable people to be full citizens of their communities, and to protect those who are vulnerable or at risk. Self-Directed support will mean that professionals need to form new, more equal relationships with the people they support. For many care managers this means being able to ‘return to doing social work' (a return which many welcome).

I find taking care of my husband difficult enough and I am worried that Self-Directed Support will just be another burden for me and my family

The way the old system works, not having any control can be a terrible burden on families. If done badly, Self-Directed Support could also be burdensome. But extra work should not be imposed on families and, if done well, Self-Directed Support gives families a brand new opportunity to have a better balance in their life. They can take the amount of direct control they are comfortable with.

Some families find that they take just a small amount of direct control at first, see the advantages, and then want to take more. Our findings so far demonstrate that Self-Directed Support can mean people have better, happier family lives.

What is In Control?

In Control is an organisation helping people get real choice and control over their lives. It helps Councils to deliver Self-Directed Support. As a social enterprise that was set up to transform the current social care system into a system of Self-Directed Support, In Control aims to create a new welfare system in which everyone is in control of their lives. In Control is a partnership working with different kinds of members - for example, people who need support, or citizen members, Council and NHS members, provider members, commercial members, sponsors and ambassadors. The organisation has over 120 Council members that are working to change their systems. In Control is now a registered charity.

What is a Personal Budget?

As part of Self-Directed Support, people who are eligible to receive social care are allocated money from their Council to spend in a way that helps them live their life as they choose. This money is called a Personal Budget.

Where does Personal Budget money come from?

If Self-Directed Support could only happen when large amounts of new funding became available, it's unlikely that it would happen at all. So, the amount of money available is the same as is available now and it comes from the money which social services are already spending on social care. However, this approach should also help people identify and use other sources of funding (e.g. the Independent Living Fund, Benefits, Employment, Community Services, Health, Education and grants).

How do I get a Personal Budget?

Ask your Council. Over three quarters of English Councils are members of In Control. They can tell you how they are delivering and developing Self-Directed Support in your area. In Scotland and Wales, too, Councils have begun work with In Control and in June 2008, In Control started in Ireland.

What is a support plan and how do I make one?

A support plan describes what a person wants to change about their life and how they will use their Personal Budget to make these changes happen. A support plan will help you make positive changes to your life and decide how you can use your Personal Budget to make these changes.

You can make your support plan on your own, or with other people. The main thing is that you must have a say about what goes into your plan. Your Council has to agree your support plan.

What if a Personal Budget doesn't provide enough money for my support?

The Resource Allocation System (RAS) produces an indicative allocation which should only be viewed as definite once a person's support plan has been agreed. It is the support planning process itself that tests whether the allocation is reasonable. The key question here is: can a support plan be developed that allows a person to achieve the outcomes identified in the RAS? This question decides the reasonableness of any allocation. In practice, if the amount of money is seen not to be enough, the Council must either allocate more funds, or work actively to show how a support plan can be developed that achieves the agreed outcomes within the allocation.

Councils need to develop a Resource Allocation System that is compatible with their duties in law and with policy guidance. For example, councils have a statutory duty to assess needs and to provide help to people who meet their eligibility criteria. Councils also need to continue to meet their statutory duties to carers and ensure that their resource allocation system is compatible with guidance on Fair Access to Care.

In other words a council can't just say that the amount indicated by the RAS is enough. People have come back based on statutory duties.

What happens if I also need help from the NHS?

At the moment there's less flexibility with NHS funding than social care money. But things are changing. The government is looking at how support can be personalised for those with long-term health conditions. Even now you should be able to negotiate with doctors and nurses about how your health needs are met in a more personal way.

If you have a short-term health crisis, then you could try asking for a review of your support plan. In Control is just beginning work with Primary Care Trusts and Councils to explore how Self-Directed Support works in the NHS and at the boundary between health and social care - for example, around mental health, long-term conditions, dementia and substance misuse. This is called the Staying In Control programme.

What happens if I save some of my money from my Personal Budget?

A Personal Budget is money that has been allocated to an individual because they need it. Once it has been transferred to another party (a person or an organisation), In Control maintains that the money no longer belongs to the Council. Whoever receives the money is responsible for using it to do the best for themselves or the person they are managing the money for.

Direct Payments guidance refers to the money as 'public money' and states that: 'Councils are able to require some or all of the money they have paid out to be repaid if they are satisfied that it has not been used to secure the provision of the service to which it relates. They may also require repayment if the person has not met any condition that the council has properly imposed.'

In Control believes that it is a mistake for Councils to attempt to claw-back any of the funding they have given away. Claw-backs are inappropriate, expensive to administer and counter-productive - when people believe that they may lose money left in their account at the end of a month or a year they are more likely to rush to spend it - often inappropriately. This probably makes the system more inefficient and expensive than just treating the money as properly belonging to the person.

Some people decide they don't need all the money. It may make more sense to celebrate those who return funds in those circumstances than to try and claw back funds. Councils should encourage a culture of responsibility and citizenship - treating people as if they are likely to defraud the system is not helpful.

What records should I keep when managing my Personal Budget?

Your Council should be most interested in the outcomes that you achieve - are you getting the life you have set out in the support plan? But, of course, Councils will want to check if you've used money legally and so you have to keep some records. It depends if you are controlling the money or if someone else is doing that for you. If you are controlling the money then you have to keep bank statements, basic accounts of what you've received and what you've spent. If you are employing personal assistants or other staff, then you have to keep a record of payroll and have employment documents like an insurance certificate, a contract etc. But you don't have to keep a receipt for every cup of coffee or bus ticket.

If someone else is looking after your support money, they have to keep those records. If a provider organisation is doing it, they have to have a separate account for your money. The same is true of a Council that manages your money.

If I receive a Personal Budget, does this count as income and does it affect my eligibility for benefits such as a Daily Living Allowance?

No. Personal Budgets will not affect welfare benefits as they are not classed as income to you. In any case, welfare benefits such as Income Support, Incapacity benefit and Daily Living Allowance are not means tested. What this means is that if someone receives a Personal Budget this does not affect their eligibility for any of these benefits.

Can a person who 'lacks capacity' as defined by the Mental Capacity Act be forced to receive their social care as a Personal Budget?

No, no-one can be forced to receive their social care as a Personal Budget. In Control has always made it very clear that there are at least six ways in which someone can manage the money in their individual allocation. These are as a payment to the person themselves; to their representative; to an Independent Living Trust; to an independent person or organisation (a broker), to a provider organisation; or managed directly by the Council, usually by a social worker or care manager.

About funding your own support

I am not eligible for a Personal Budget, can I still use shop4support?

Yes, shop4support encourages all people to take control of their own support through choice. You can register for free with shop4support and use the website to search for support and products and pay with your own funds. You can also use the My Life area of shop4support to find help and information about many subjects and discover activities and events to take part in.

About shop4support

  1. Is shop4support free to use?
    Yes, shop4support is free to use. There are no hidden charges or fees for people wanting to buy support through the website.
  2. Can a member of my family use shop4support on my behalf?
    Yes, if a family member already helps you find and buy support, or if they help you manage your Personal Budget, this shouldn't have to change - they'll be doing the same thing, just using shop4support!