/care-guides/cost-of-care/direct-payments/

Direct payments explained

As soon as many people see the price of care, they’re intimidated at the costs involved. It can be difficult to work out how you’re going to pay for it. There may be worries your loved one will have to sell the family home. You might feel bamboozled by the system, feeling isolated by a lack of support.

The result is that many go against their loved one’s best wishes and default to the care home. The sad thing is, it’s often not necessary. With direct payments, you’re able to get government support to pay for the type of care you choose.


What are direct payments?

Direct payments are one of a number of funding options you’re entitled to from your local authority. Instead of providing services to you directly (or through a private provider), you get paid the money directly, and are able to choose the care option that suits your family best.

Do I need direct payments for live-in care?

If you’re looking at using government funding to pay for live-in care, it is essential you apply for direct payments.

Am I entitled to direct payments?

The entitlement of you, or a loved one, to a direct payment is based on two interdependent assessments - the needs assessment and the means test. It’s important to realise, under the Care Act 2014, your local council is unable to decline your application for direct payments on arbitrary grounds. In other words, they’re a right, not a privilege. And, if you find resistance, once you’ve applied the burden of proof that it’s not a suitable option for your loved one is on the local authority.

Direct payments: Care needs assessment

Firstly, your loved one will need to undertake a care needs assessment. This is exactly what it says on the tin. An occupational therapist, nurse - or sometimes a social worker will talk through how your loved one copes with everyday activities such as getting dressed, undertaking household tasks and ability to maintain personal hygiene.

After the assessment has taken place, the outcome will be based on a national checklist of needs, which all local councils are required to use by law.

You will qualify for care and support if:

  • Your loved one has mental or physical conditions that constitute a care need, or they are suffering from an illness.
  • Your loved one isn’t capable of at least two ‘care outcomes’ - these are from the nationally agreed checklist, examples including the ability to cook, get dressed or maintain personal hygiene.
  • Or, your loved one’s wellbeing is suffering because they’re not getting the help they need.

Direct Payments: Means test

The means test looks at the value of the assets held by your loved one, assessing broader financial circumstances. The amount your loved one is entitled to may vary from region to region. The means test looks at their ‘income’ (such as pensions and benefits) as well as ‘capital’ (such as cash savings and assets).

An advantage of opting for live-in care is that the value of your home is not considered in the means test, as it is if you’re looking at a care home. However, other ‘capital’ is considered. Under current rules, if you have own over the following (apart from the value of your home) you won’t be entitled to direct payments to fund live-in care:

  • England: £23,250
  • Scotland: £26,500
  • Wales: £30,000
  • Northern Ireland: £23,250

Want to find out more?

To discuss direct payments in more detail, book an appointment with one of our senior care advisors. They’re experts in the care system and can help give a clear understanding of what you need to do next.


How do direct payments work?

Direct payments are transferred straight from your local authority into your bank account. As soon as this happens, you’re in control. But, obviously, there are safeguards in place to ensure that you’re using them to pay for care.

Your local authority has to be assured the money they are paying is going towards funding the care set out in your loved one’s care plan. At Elder, we take out a great of complexity for those using direct payments by offering simple weekly direct debits of £795. We’ll also work around you to arrange this so it coincides with the payment of your direct payments.

How do you apply for direct payments?

If your loved one is already receiving care, you should ask your local council on their behalf about direct payments. Similarly, your loved one’s social worker or occupational therapist should discuss direct payments with the family during the care needs assessment.

If you’re looking to arrange care for someone in England, Wales or Scotland you can apply for direct payments at the GOV.uk website by clicking here.

Managing direct payments to pay for care

You are only able to spend the money your loved one receives in the form of direct payments for their care. Therefore, you should keep all receipts. If are unable to prove you’ve spent the money you’ve received on care, you could be asked to pay all or part of the unaccounted sum back to your local authority.

What if you want to cancel direct payments?

Firstly, don’t panic. The decision to opt for direct payments isn’t a final decision. Your council is still legally required to arrange an alternative care service if you decide another option is more suitable.

If you opt for care with Elder, our team of dedicated account managers is able to resolve issues you might be having with your carer. So, if you decide there’s just a mismatch of personality, we’re able to help.


Ready to find out more?

Book an appointment with one of our senior care advisors to discuss direct payments in more detail. They’re experts with a meticulous understanding of the care system.