Direct payments

About direct payments

A direct payment offers greater flexibility, control, and personalisation. You choose who provides your services, how your needs are met, and you purchase the support that meets your needs best.

Whilst having your social care needs assessed, you will be given the option of meeting your needs via a commissioned service (where Trafford arranges the care directly on your behalf), or via a direct payment, or via a mixture of both, depending on what best meets your needs and allows you to achieve your outcomes [1].

Direct payments allow you to purchase the services you need to achieve social care outcomes (results) that are important to you. For example, you can choose an agency or day service yourself, or employ a personal assistant to support your needs (or those of the person you are looking after).

Who are direct payments for?

Direct payments could be for you if:

  • You want to retain or take control of your own care and support services and who provides them
  • You want more choice in selecting the products and services that meet your specific needs
  • You’re confident with money and paperwork or have people to support you with this
  • You’re happy to keep receipts and invoices and submit these to our audit team upon request

How to apply for direct payments

If you, or the person you are looking after, have been assessed as needing social services support from Trafford Council, you have the option of asking for a direct payment instead of the traditional route of the local authority providing care.

Following on from the social care assessment and a financial assessment (to establish what, if any, weekly contributions you may need to make towards the cost of your care package), you can enquire about a direct payment. Your social worker / care coordinator will make a referral to the Direct Payments Team and a support broker will then be in touch to advise you with the process.

Your Social Worker can refer you for a financial assessment or you can contact the financial assessment team directly on 0161 912 2106 or by email:

This easy-to-use, online Calculator will tell you how much you might be asked to contribute towards your care.

Rules and guidelines for direct payments

There is no definitive list of rules for everybody that says what you can and can't spend your direct payment on. All support plans will be looked at on an individual basis, because what is right for you might not be right for other people. However, there are some basic requirements for a direct payment:

  • You must meet your social care needs and the outcomes [1] set out in your support plan. It must promote your best interests and should not adversely affect other people.
  • The direct payment must be set up a separate bank account or prepayment card.
  • Pay your financial assessment charge in to your direct payment account.
  • Stick to your budget (unless your needs change then contact the screening team to request a reassessment) and show value for money and outcomes.
  • Keep a record of your spending we will help you do this and perform regular audits on your record of spend via our Audit Team.
  • Tell us about any changes in your circumstances (such as hospital admissions).
  • Work within employment law if you employ a personal assistant (we will help you to do this).

How much will the direct payment be?

The direct payment will be an amount sufficient to meet the needs you, or the person you are looking after, have been assessed as having. It will be broken down into the amount we will pay, based on how you wish for your needs to be met (agency, personal assistant, day care or respite).

Whether you have services provided by us or direct payments, you may have to pay towards the costs. We will work out your contribution.

If you choose to have a direct payment, we will deduct the amount of your contribution from the assessed amount and you will need to transfer the contribution charge into the direct payment account to make up the full amount so you can pay for the services.

Trafford Council have a standard hourly rate for care agencies and personal assistants. If you choose to use a more expensive agency—anything above the standard hourly rate—you will have to top up the difference. This is unrelated to a client contribution, which is assessed separately.

If the direct payment is being used to pay for a personal assistant, then the additional costs involved (i.e. accountancy, auto-enrolment pension costs, National Insurance and Income Tax cost, etc.) will be included to cover these costs.

How to manage your direct payment

If you need help and support to manage your funding, we can apply for extra funding to be paid to an accountant. They can then assist you in administrating the account, but you retain control and responsibility over your direct payment monies.

A third option would be for the Brokerage Team to apply for further funding to arrange for a third party agency to assume the role of suitable person on your behalf, if you are unable to fully manage the direct payment monies.

The money will must be paid into a separate bank account to your own personal account. The direct payment funding is usually paid every four weeks.

An audit of the record of your spend will be regularly carried out to help ensure you are managing your direct payment appropriately as per your identified social care needs and outcomes [1].

A support broker can help you or your suitable person manage your budget in accordance with employment law, the Council's direct payment contract, and government guidance.

What the payments can be spent on

You can be creative by thinking of new and different ways to spend your budget. However, you must spend in accordance with your approved support plan.

A support broker can help you use your funding more creatively and still meet your social care outcomes.

  • Employing a personal assistant
  • Using a homecare agency
  • Short break / respite
  • Accessing day services

What the payments cannot be spent on

Payments cannot be spent on any of the following:

  • It cannot be spent on anything illegal.
  • It cannot be spent on anything that will bring the Council into disrepute (this means anything that will disgrace the Council).
  • It cannot be spent on alcohol, food or drink.
  • It cannot be spent on gambling.
  • It cannot be used to pay for day to day things like your bills or your assess charge.
  • It cannot be used to employ close relatives living in your home (unless in exceptional circumstances).
  • You cannot use direct payments to pay for permanent residential accommodation, but you might be able to use them to pay for occasional short periods in residential accommodation if this is included in your support plan.

Can the payments be used to employ a carer?

If you use your direct payment to employ a carer, you’ll take on legal responsibilities as an employer. That means you’ll have to think about processing tax with the HMRC, National Minimum Wage, sickness and holiday pay, pension, and liability insurance.

If that sounds a bit daunting, there are people and organisations that can help. There are local firms who offer payroll services who will help calculate any tax and National Insurance contributions ready for you to pay from your agreed budget.

If you don’t want to take on the responsibility of becoming an employer, you can use a home care agency rather than employing someone yourself. They will deal with all the paperwork, including references and criminal checks, and invoice you directly.

Will getting a direct payment affect my benefits?

Direct payments given to you as a carer or to someone receiving care to purchase services to meet your needs are not counted as ‘income’ for any benefits you receive, and so would not affect any of your benefits.

However, the person you pay from your direct payment monies (personal assistant) may have their benefits affected, as this will be considered as income from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Who to contact

We are here to support you through the whole process of setting up and running a personal budget. We are available to provide guidance and further advice when needed.

Direct Payment Audit Team:

Glossary of terms

[1] Personal outcomes describe what a person wants to achieve. These are realistic goals that the person receiving care and support, and their care worker or carer can work towards. They are usually based around supporting the individual’s wellbeing.