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Personal budgets

The Children and Families Act 2014 states that all children and young people from birth to 25 who are in receipt of an education, health and care plan (EHC) are be able to request a personal budget from.

‘A Personal Budget is an amount of money identified by the Local Authority to deliver all or some of the provision set out in an EHC Plan where the parent or young person is involved in securing that provision’ (SEN code of practice 9:92).

In other words, it is the amount of money that statutory services spend on an individual for some services that an individual receives. Personal budgets are not additional resources, they are intended to ensure that resources are used in the best way to meet the needs of, and agreed outcomes for, children and young people and can offer flexibility, choice and control to families in a clear and transparent way.

The personal budget is calculated simultaneously to the education, health and care plan being developed and is signed off by the EHC panel. The personal budget must be used to deliver the provision that has been agreed as being necessary to meet the outcomes that are set out in the EHC plan. Therefore, whilst there may be flexibility in who manages all or some of the personal budget and the arrangements for making that provision, there is no discretion as to the purpose for which the personal budget is to be used and the focus must be to achieve the stated EHC plan outcomes.

Personal budget can come from different sources ie health needs, social care and/or education needs. However, not all services listed in an EHC plan will translate into a personal budget. This is based on the fact that personal budgets do not include services termed as universal services and also, specialist services tied up in block contracts where it is not possible to accurately apportion costs to individuals.

Management of personal budget

Personal budgets are predominantly still managed by statutory services and not given to families or young people to manage themselves. In some instance, a family or young person can decide how they want their personal budget to be managed, in 1 of the following ways.

As an organised budget

This is an arrangement whereby the local authority and health services hold the funds and commission the support specified in the EHC plan (these are sometimes called notional arrangements). The local authority and health authority, manages the budget on behalf of the family or young person. No money changes hands, but the family or young person know how much money is available and, when the way to spend the money to achieve identified outcomes is agreed, the local authority or the education provider makes arrangements for the specific provision.

As a third party arrangement

Funds are paid to another organisation on behalf of the family or young person and they know how much money is available and, when the way to spend the money to achieve identified outcomes is agreed, the third party purchases the service and manages the funds.

As a direct payment on a prepaid card 

In some instances funds can be paid directly to families or to young people over the age of 16 enabling them to directly commission the services listed in their EHC plan. The family or young person receive the money on a prepaid card, which they can use as a normal bank debit card to purchase services. Or as a combination of the above options.

Elements of personal budget

As a whole, the personal budget is made-up of personal health budget, personal education budget and personal care budget.

Personal health budget

A personal health budget can be given to individual within the age range of 0 to 25 years. Therefore, where an EHC plan includes specific provision to meet the child or young person’s health needs personal health budget will thus focus on the child or young person health outcomes (needs with costs). Where a parent/carer or young person requests a personal health budget, this request will be referred to the clinical commissioning group who will determine whether a personal budget is appropriate and, if so, the basis on which it is allocated. Typically, health budget covers health needs like spot purchased special equipment services, therapies, CHC etc. However, the contents of the health budget largely depends on the health needs of the child or young person as stated in the EHC plan.

Personal education budget

A personal education budget is an amount of money identified by the local authority which can be used to deliver parts of the education provision as set out in the EHC plan. A personal education budget will be available where support provided by the education provider as set out in the education provider’s local offer cannot meet the student’s identified support needs and where the education provider would therefore typically have to source that support separately for the individual. When an amount that might be attributed to a specific child or young person is identified parents or the young person themselves, may elect to direct how that amount is spent in order to achieve prior agreed outcomes, including requesting some or all of that amount by way of a direct payment to source provision themselves. Personal education budget covers educational needs mainly to improve the learning ability of the child or young person like educational placement, spot purchases by school etc.

Personal care budget

Personal care budgets focus around family and home life, being safe when out and about in the local community and being able to take part in life outside of school. Personal care budgets can cover social needs like short breaks, respite care, home care, and residential placement. However, the contents of the personal care budget largely depends on the needs of the child or young person as stated in the EHC plan.

Commissioning specialist support with a direct payment

Where parents/carers and young people are provided with a direct payment on a prepaid card, they can search for a suitable service provider company to provide required service according to the expected outcome. However, it is the responsibility of the parents or young person to ensure that the provider who they commission to deliver that service is (a) suitably qualified – where necessary; (b) can be fully funded through the resources allocated (or that the parent/carer/young person has the means to meet the shortfall in costs; and (c) are fully aware of the requirements of the EHC plan and their contribution to meeting the expected targets and outcomes.

Requesting a personal budget

A family or a young person over the age of 16 may request a personal budget if they have an EHC plan. The request can be made to their nominated EHC coordinator during the preparation for the EHC annual review, or prior to an EHC plan being developed, when the EHC coordinator meets the family or young person to write Part A of the EHC plan.

Some elements of a personal budget may be considered for release to the family as a direct payment. This is not common practice as most families consulted stated they did not want direct payments. Where direct payments are allocated they only come from can only spot purchase or individualised budgets, they are not from universal services or block contracts. Most services a child/family receives are universal services or, specialist services tied up in large block contracts. In these cases it is not practical to unpick large contracts and calculate Personal Budgets. Economies of scale would mean families would end up being able to purchase a fraction of the resource.