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Managing your direct payment



Who do I contact for information and advice?   Back to top

Staffordshire Cares and the direct payment team will be able to assist with any issues you have around your payment, and for advice on how to manage your direct payment. 

For any changes in your care and support needs you should contact your practitioner or the duty team via Staffordshire Cares.



My responsibilities   Back to top

As your direct payment is public money you will be asked to sign an agreement to confirm that you understand the rules and regulations around using your direct payment. This agreement also explains our responsibilities.

You should read this document carefully and make sure you understand what is expected of you. You will also receive other useful information relevant to your care package.



The payment   Back to top

Your direct payment will be managed via a prepaid card account and you will receive a card to use with this account. Your card will be from a company called Prepaid Financial Services (PFS). They are experienced prepaid card providers for direct payment clients. They also work with over 30 other councils across the country to deliver this service.   

You will receive a letter detailing your first payment and what your regular two weekly payments will be. 

 Please note

  • If your direct payment is a weekly allocation, we will also pay you a ‘contingency payment’. It is equivalent to four weeks’ worth of your weekly direct payment and should only be used for emergencies. You also need to obtain written approval from us before you use it. The contingency payment must be returned upon the termination of your direct payment.
  • Your regular payment will be made into this account every two weeks. Payments are made in arrears and cover the last two weeks up to the Saturday before payment is made. We will send you a remittance advice for each payment, which will give details of the payment. (If you would prefer to receive your remittance advice slips by email please let us know).
  • You will be financially assessed and may have to pay a contribution for your care. You will have to pay this contribution into the prepaid card account. For more information see the  assessed contribution section.



Record keeping   Back to top

You must keep and provide evidence of how you spend your direct payment. Because of this we ask that you keep all invoices, wage slips, receipts etc.

You or your representative must check all paperwork to ensure that any payments made are at the agreed rate and reflect the true hours of care completed, cross referencing all payments going in and out of the account.

The only documentation that we do not expect you to keep are the remittance advice slips, unless you would prefer to keep them. If there are ever queries with your payments we can check all payments made into the account. 

 Please note

All direct payment paperwork should be kept for 7 years.



Funding your care - top-up   Back to top

If your care costs more than the money you receive from us (including your assessed contribution), you will need to pay the difference privately.

If your care costs increase, you should seek guidance from your social work team about who will fund the increase.  You should contact them as soon as you become aware that your care costs are due to increase.

If you need to top up the difference and the provider will not negotiate on price, you may wish to consider finding alternative care provision.



Acting as an authorised person   Back to top

From November 2009, the law has been changed to extend direct payments to people who lack the mental capacity to consent to them. We now have a duty to offer direct payments to these individuals, where there is an ‘authorised person’ to receive and manage such payments on their behalf and where it would be in their best interests to have direct payments.

If you are considering acting as an authorised person to receive direct payments on behalf of someone who does not have capacity, the information on this page may help you to decide.

Being appointed as an authorised person

Be aware that:

  • you cannot just become an authorised person. We must follow legislation and guidance on how to appoint an authorised person. Please discuss the conditions for becoming an authorised person with your social worker

  • you must meet all the criteria set out in our guidance notes for appointing an authorised person

  • you will act as the authorised person on behalf of an adult who lacks mental capacity to consent to receive direct payments

  • you must be willing and want to act as an authorised person

  • you can have support to manage the direct payment. Staffordshire Connects has details of organisations who can provide the support you may require. This could include using direct payments, recruiting and managing personal assistants, payroll and undertaking DBS checks, amongst other services

Your role and responsibilities

These include:

  • following good practice in making decisions on behalf of the person who lacks capacity and act in their best interests

  • being accountable, as the authorised person, for the way the direct payments funds are managed

  • involving the person who lacks capacity as far as is reasonably practicable and give them as much control and independence as possible

  • agreeing to inform us of any changes or difficulties, or as soon as you believe the person has regained capacity

  • signing an agreement with us relating to the use of the direct payments and you must keep to its terms

  • agreeing to use the direct payments to purchase and obtain the services necessary to meet the needs of the person who lacks capacity, as agreed by us

  • making these arrangements which may involve legal responsibilities, for example employing staff

  • if you employ personal assistants, you must ensure you act lawfully as an employer

  • if you use an agency, please read our web pages for advice on how to use agencies and keep safe

  • if you decide to give up acting as the authorised person, you must contact us as soon as you no longer want to carry on in this role

  • if the person you represent has fluctuating capacity, during periods when they regain capacity you must ensure that you involve them as much as practicable in decisions

  • not using the direct payment to secure services from a spouse, civil partner or partner of the individual, or a close relative, spouse or partner of a close relative of the individual who is currently living in the same household without permission from us. You must first speak with a social worker and seek agreement in these circumstances. There may be occasions when we may decide that it is necessary for an authorised person to use direct payments to secure such services, however, such situations are likely to be exceptional and a 'best interests' policy is adopted

  • using the pre-paid card for the sole purpose of purchasing the support required to secure the services to meet the assessed needs of the person who lacks capacity

  • if you are a corporation or unincorporated body, you must ensure that the money can be shown as separate to any funds you may hold for any other person or body

  • whilst we do not want to discourage you from acting on behalf of an individual who lacks capacity, we must ensure that you are aware that anyone who acts as an authorised person may be guilty of fraud if they dishonestly abuse their position, intend to benefit themselves, or others, and cause loss or expose the person to risk or loss. The Fraud Act 2006 created an offence of ‘abuse of position’. This applies when someone is expected to safeguard the interests of a person but instead acts against their financial interests. Such a person can be found guilty of a criminal offence

  • if you are a corporation or unincorporated body you must undertake criminal record checks for any workers you use to provide to the person who lacks capacity



A representative   Back to top

It may be that you are unable to or do not want to manage your direct payment yourself. If so you may nominate a representative to manage your direct payment on your behalf.

This must be someone who you can trust to act in your best interests. They may help you with the administration of your direct payment or they may actually manage the account on your behalf. If they are to manage the account, the prepaid card must be in their name.



Managed accounts   Back to top

It may be that you are unable to or do not want to manage your direct payment yourself, and you don’t have a representative who can manage it on your behalf.

In this case, a managed account by a direct payment support provider may be appropriate. You may have to pay for this service yourself. 

 Please note

This service only deals with the financial administration of payments.

If you also need support to manage how your care is delivered (for example to ensure your carer turns up on time and that they meet your needs), you will need a care representative to act on your behalf (e.g. a family member or friend). Unfortunately, if you need this support and don't have access to it, you may not be able to have a direct payment and you may have to have your care needs met in another way.



Review of your care package   Back to top

Periodically, a practitioner will contact you to arrange to review your care package. They may reassess your needs, and this may result in an increase or decrease in your direct payment. They will also ask to have a look at your direct payment records.



Monitoring of your direct payment   Back to top

The direct payment team will undertake periodic monitoring of your direct payment account. This could be an office process or the team may contact you to arrange a visit. 

If a direct payment advisor visits, they will ask you to have your direct payment paperwork (invoices, wage slips, receipts etc.) ready for them, usually around 3 months' worth, unless issues have been raised.

They will ask various questions to establish if your direct payment is working for you and is being used in accordance with your care and support plan. This visit, which will be arranged at a time that is convenient for you, will also be an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about your direct payment.  

During this visit the advisor will: 

  • ensure that you are keeping all records, invoices, wage slips, receipts etc (for 7 years)

  • check that your invoices, wage slips, receipts etc are an accurate record of the care received, cross referencing payments showing on your prepaid card account

  • check whether your client contribution (if applicable) is being paid into the direct payment account

  • check that the expected contingency and/or reserve is in the account

  • check to see if the account over or under spent

  • calculate if there is any surplus money in your direct payment account.  They will discuss with you if there is a specific reason for this, and they may reclaim some of this or ask you to pay some of this money back to us

  • ensure that relevant insurance, training and payroll is in place (if employing a PA)

If you have spent your direct payment on something that isn’t specified in your care and support plan, you may be asked to repay the money if it is not agreed as an appropriate use of your direct payment. 

If you are not keeping relevant records (invoices, wage slips, receipts etc) or complying with the direct payment agreement, the advisor will refer to a practitioner which may result in your direct payment being suspended or ended. 

If you have questions that we can’t answer, we may refer you to a practitioner.



Using your direct payment to employ staff   Back to top

If your direct payment package is set up to employ staff then your practitioner will need to ensure you are aware of all the implications of employing your own staff.

The direct payment support service provider will be able to give you important information about employing staff. You can also use them to provide a payroll service (payable from your direct payment). There are certain laws that you have to follow when you employ staff. The direct payment support service provider will be able to advise and support you with this. 

 Please note

Staffordshire County Council and our partners do not allow you to pay anyone 'cash in hand'. It could have serious consequences for you and the person you are giving the money to, if you are found to be doing this.



Self-employed personal assistants   Back to top

We strongly recommend against using your direct payment to fund a ‘self-employed’ PA or communicator guide.  

If you want to know more, please contact Staffordshire Cares.

If you think your PA is self-employed, please contact your social work team.



Keeping safe   Back to top

DBS checks

We strongly advise that criminal records checks (DBS) are undertaken for anyone employed to provide services for an individual who lacks capacity. The Council will fund the cost of the DBS check.

There are occasions when it is mandatory for us to carry out a DBS check when children are present in the household. Please contact the direct payments team for advice.

Authorised person

We will require you to undertake a criminal record check if you wish to be an appointed authorised person and you are not a family member, spouse, or a friend involved in the provision of care. Please discuss the criteria with your social worker. For example, this would apply to an independent care broker or solicitor not previously known to the person who lacks capacity. You cannot be appointed until this check has been completed.

As the authorised person, you are only responsible for making decisions about direct payments, but there are other ways support can be provided for the person without capacity, either via a virtual budget or by the worker arranging care for the person. Direct payments are just one form of support. Please discuss the alternatives with your social worker.



Suspending your direct payment   Back to top

If, for any reason, you are (temporarily) unable to use your direct payment (e.g. admitted into hospital or respite), please ensure that you or your representative informs your practitioner and the Direct Payment team immediately.  

Suspension of your direct payment depends on your package of care. For example: 

  • if you employ a PA, they are eligible for four weeks of full pay and 2 weeks at half pay

  • if you attend a day centre they may charge a notice period or may require some payment to secure your ongoing place. You need to contact your practitioner to see if you can pay for these from your direct payments (the direct payment will only fund up to 4 weeks' notice)

However, if you use a home care provider we should be able to suspend your payments straight away.

You or your representative must contact your practitioner and the Direct Payment team when necessary, so that your direct payment can be restarted.  

There may also be circumstances when we will tell you we will suspend part of your package,for example during the PA recruitment process.



Repayment of money   Back to top

We may reclaim funds from your direct payment account, or ask you to repay money to us because: 

  • your needs have changed and your direct payment is reduced

  • you are not using your direct payment appropriately

  • a surplus has built up in your account

  • we have made an overpayment (due to an error, change in your care package or change to your assessed contribution)

  • your direct payment was not suspended when necessary

  • you have used your direct payment to pay for something not detailed within your care and support plan



Ending your direct payment   Back to top

 Please note

When direct payments are ended (by the social work team) your card will be locked and no more payments will be made from it, including any direct debits set up. Please cancel any direct debits and standing orders as soon as you know direct payments are to end.

To get any final bills paid you will need to get a copy of the invoice and send to the direct payment team who will pay the invoice as part of the final account process as long as it is in line with your support plan.



Your assessed contribution   Back to top

In line with our policy, you will be financially assessed to establish how much contribution you are able to pay towards your care. A financial assessment officer will contact you or your representative to go through a series of simple questions to find out this information. You will not be asked to pay more than you can reasonably afford.  

Payment of your financially assessed contribution (if applicable) should be made into your direct payment account (from your personal bank account) on a regular basis, either on a weekly, fortnightly or four weekly basis. We recommend that you set up a standing order for this. Please be aware that four weekly payments are different to monthly. 

If it is identified that you have not made your contribution, you will be asked to do this retrospectively and you may be invoiced for any shortfall in your direct payment account, or your direct payment may be suspended. 

Your contribution should be used first towards your care as funding from us is the top up (this is the case even if the top up from us is more than your contribution). Therefore, if we find that you have surplus money in your direct payment account, this money will be considered as belonging to us. The only exception would be if there were any periods where you didn’t receive (and didn’t pay for) any care (and you continued to make your contribution). In these circumstances, you would be due back your contribution for the relevant periods.



Disclosing and barring service   Back to top

We strongly recommend that you undertake a criminal records check before employing a personal assistant, even if you know them.

If there are children under 18 in your home when the personal assistant is at work then you are legally obliged to do so. If you refuse to do this, and we believe you will be placed at significant risk, we reserve the right to withdraw the offer of a direct payment.

We will pay for the criminal record check, you will have to request payment from your practitioner.



A direct payment cannot be spent on   Back to top

  • purchasing services from us

  • permanent residential care

  • an activity or item that exposes you to serious risk from someone else or themselves

  • funding support provided by anyone living in the same house as you, except in exceptional circumstances

  • anything that is not covered by your care and support plan

  • any type of illegal activity

  • any services provided by the NHS

  • a substitute for disabled facilities grants

  • a self-employed personal assistant (except in exceptional circumstances) 

  • anything else that is not an assessed eligible community care need

We continue to have a responsibility to make sure that you have the means to meet your assessed needs and that you are willing and capable of managing your direct payment, with or without support.

We are also required to ensure that the direct payment is used for the purpose(s) intended as outlined in your care and support plan. 

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