Direct payments (adult social care)


A direct payment is an agreed amount of money that we give you so you can arrange and manage your own care.

This gives you greater choice and control about when and how your needs will be met.

You don't have to have a direct payment. You might prefer to have your support arranged from a home care agency or other provider the council contracts to support residents. This is known as a commissioned service.

Why you might need a direct payment

You may be advised to have a conversation (needs assessment) with an Adult Social Care professional because of a:

  • physical or mental health change
  • disability
  • frailty

Who qualifies for a direct payment

You can request a direct payment if you have been assessed by adult social care and have eligible needs and require support to have those needs met.

A social care worker will work with you to develop a support plan. This will set out what you want to achieve and how your assessed needs will be met.

This could include community support like activity groups or leisure services, or support from family and friends. 

If you still have needs to be met, we will work out the amount of money needed to meet your needs and that becomes your personal budget. A direct payment is the way we can transfer the money to you. A financial assessment will calculate how much you need to contribute towards your care and we will take that off the amount of direct payment given to you.    

Agreeing to a direct payment

You have to agree to a direct payment and sign an agreement (contract) with the Council. The agreement describes your responsbilities, what the direct payment can be spent on and how it will be monitored. 

If a person does not have mental capacity to consent to a direct payment, but is in their best interests to have their needs with one, a representative can manage it for them. They are known as an Authorised Person.

They will enter into the agreement with the council and are responsible and accountable for any decisions or spending relating to the direct payment.

What a payment can be used for

A direct payment can be used to:

  • purchase support or services
  • pay for short periods of care
  • buy support from organisations that would meet your needs
  • employ a personal assistant


Find out about personal assistants.

What a payment can't be used for

A direct payment can't be used to meet needs not described in your support plan.

This includes:

  • healthcare needs
  • food and drink
  • gambling
  • anything that is against the law
  • long-term care in a care home
  • services delivered by the council

Setting up a direct payment

You do not need to apply for a direct payment. Your social care worker can make the arrangements for you following your assessment of needs.

They will work out how much money is needed for the whole year to meet your needs, and this will be the amount of your direct payment.

The Self-Directed Support Team will arrange to meet with you to go through the agreement, including the support available and what it can and can't be used for.

They will also set up an online bank account, arrange a pre-paid payment card, and help you access the online account for you to manage your money.

Help managing a direct payment

You can ask a family member or friend to help you manage your direct payment. They are known as a nominated person.

Your nominated person should be involved in planning and setting up the direct payment.

You will remain responsible for how to spend the money, but they can support with the day-to-day management of the bank account, paying bills or liaising with personal assistants about hours of work.

How your direct payment will be paid

Your direct payment will be paid into the online bank account at agreed periods of time. This is usually split into 13 equal payments made every 4 weeks. Some people may receive their direct payment as a one-off payment.

You can then use the money to pay any invoices for your care or to arrange to pay your personal assistant.

If you must pay towards your care, you must make sure you transfer the full amount of your contributions from your personal account into the direct payment bank account every month so you have enough money to pay for your care.

For example: if the monthly direct payment amount is £150 and you have been assessed to contribute £40 per month towards your care, the council will transfer £110 into the direct payment bank account, and you will transfer £40.

It's always easier if this is set up as a standing order.

The Self-Directed Support Team can offer further support and will answer any questions about the bank account. They will also carry out regular reviews to make sure everything is working well.

Any changes to your care and support needs will be overseen by your social care worker.

Spending your direct payment

We will give you a pre-paid card that is in your name.

We will help you to activate your card and get your PIN number from the card company's telephone helpline.

Once your card has been activated, we can begin to transfer money to your Direct Payment. We will do this every month (or as agreed with your social worker).

You can use this bank account and pre-paid card just like your personal bank account and normal debit card.

You can set up direct debits and standing orders and make one off payments or bank transfers.

What you can't do with your pre-paid card

You can't use your card to:

  • withdraw cash from a cash machine (ATM)
  • write cheques
  • go overdrawn

This means that you can only spend the amount that is available in the direct payment bank account.

Some people may choose to buy additional support over and above their eligible care needs. We recommend keeping those financial arrangements separate from your direct payment account.

This will reduce confusion about what your direct payment is used for and to help you track what you are spending on the needs agreed in your support plan.

If you have any problems using your card, or if you lose your card or your PIN, you can contact EML customer services, or the Council's Self Directed Support Team on 0191 427 1717.

Managing your card online

You will be able to log onto the online customer portal to manage your pre-paid card.

You can view your balance and see payments that have been made onto your card (credits) and payments that you have made from your account (debits).

You will be able to set up standing orders from the card account and make online payments or transfers, as well as upload copies of receipts and invoices. This will make it easy for you to keep records about how you are spending your direct payment.

You can phone EML customer services to find out your balance or make payments if you don't have access to the internet. 

If you would prefer to manage you card account online, but do not have a computer or smart phone, you can use public computers in Council libraries or through some local voluntary organisations.

Contact us

If you have a problem managing your direct payment and need advice, you can call the Self-Directed Support Team on 0191 427 1717  (Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm) or email

If your needs have changed and your direct payment is not enough to meet your assessed needs, you can speak to your social care worker and ask for a review of your support plan.

If needed, the amount of your direct payment can be changed.