Direct Payments are a way of giving more choice and control to disabled children and their families about the services they use. Parents can be given money to pay for and arrange services for their child, as an alternative to those their local authority offers.
You and your child arrange how, when and where support services fit best into your lives. Direct Payments for disabled children were introduced in the Carers and Disabled Children Act (2000) and each year more parents are choosing to take them up.
How do you get Direct Payments?
First, your child will need to have been assessed as needing a service. If your child isn’t currently getting any services and you think they may be entitled to some, you can request that a needs assessment be performed. Find out more about needs assessments.
In Brighton and Hove you can contact the Specialist Community Disability Service on 01273 295550 to request an assessment, or in East Sussex you can contact Children’s Disability Social Care and Respite on 01323 464222. If your child is over 18, you will need to contact the Adult Social Care Team instead.
You can use Direct Payments to employ someone to care for your child (often called a Personal Assistant or PA) or to buy into a local service, like a day nursery, an after school club, holiday play scheme or even a residential short break unit but you can’t use it to buy into a service run by your council. Unless there are exceptional circumstances you cannot use Direct Payments to employ a close relative who lives in your household, although you can use it to employ a relative who lives elsewhere.
If your child is assessed as needing a service, you cannot be refused Direct Payments if this is your choice. Local authorities have a duty to offer Direct Payments: the law says they must tell you about Direct Payments and support you if you wish to take these up. Locally, if you are already getting services, your child’s social worker should have told you about this alternative to accepting services run by the local authority.
Are Direct Payments for you?
Direct Payments are ideal for parents who want more control over the support for their child. They are worth thinking about if your child has been assessed for a service but has been on a waiting list and getting no help for a long time. Direct Payments may also be right for you if you and your child don’t have a say about how the services you use are run and you always feel as if you are fitting in with what they can offer, rather than getting your family’s needs met.
Direct payments need not be scary
Direct Payments does mean extra work but the rewards can be very great. These are some of the issues that worry parents about arranging support for their child: