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Personal Budgets - Frequently Asked Questions

Bedford Borough Council

Frequently Asked Questions

Personal Budgets


The Children & Families Act 2014, and the SEND Code of Practice 2015, aims to support children and young people with SEN and/or disabilities, and their families more to have greater choice, flexibility, and control over the services that their children have been assessed as needing from education, health and social care to help them achieve their outcomes. Bedford Borough would like to offer Personal Budget as one way to enable a more creative way of meeting outcomes in a more holistic way.


1.  What is a Personal Budget?   

A Personal Budget is proportional amount of money that can come from education, health or social care, which families can spend on services and support, in order to meet an assessed need of a child/ young person with SEND.


Some points to remember:

  • A Personal Budget is not extra or additional funding for a child/young person’s with SEND. It is an amount of money that has been identified as being necessary to meet your child/YP assessed need. A Personal Budget is a way of using the allotted funds - differently with a view to best meeting the agreed outcomes for the child/YP.
  • If the child/ young person has an assessed, social care need, then a direct payment may be offered - this is may be used to help with caring, and or accessing services.
  • Personal Budgets aim to give families more choice around how the needs of their child / young person with SEND are met.

2.  What are the advantages of having a Personal Budget?

A Personal Budget will offer families and young people the freedom to plan how support is delivered to meet agreed outcomes in the child/young person’s Education Health & Care (EHC) Plan. Within certain boundaries, families will be able to choose how the money is spent. This allows a more personalised service for disabled children and young people and increases choice, flexibility and control.


  • A Personal Budget should enable families and young people to have more involvement in creating a plan for how their needs may be met.
  • A Personal Budget offers choice over how the funding is held, and managed. If this is taken as a direct payment the services can be bought and managed directly by the parent/carer or young person.
  • Families are given help to develop a support plan showing how identified needs and outcomes will be met.


3.       How does my child/young person get a Personal Budget? 

The child/young person’s parents or the young person themselves – age 16+ (if they are able to make their own decisions), can request a Personal Budget through their lead professional/key worker. This happens when they have had confirmation that an EHC Plan will be prepared. It will be part of the lead professional’s/key worker’s tasks to ask whether a Personal Budget is being considered.

  • In some cases, a Personal Budget may not be available because funding for a child/young person’s support needs cannot be paid for in that way, for example where the funding is already tied into existing contracting arrangements.  In these cases, the lead professional/key worker will record that a request was made so that this information is available when contracts are reviewed and for future contracts planning.


  • A Personal Budget may be used solely for education or health or social care purposes, or any combination of those purposes.

4.  What does ‘block contracts’ mean and why are they important?

Local Health Authorities often ‘block’ purchase services for the benefit of a number of children & young people for particular services. This means they are unable to separate out an amount for individual children/young people from the wider block of funding as it pays for the service to be provided to all the children/young people who need it within that local area.

  • Where contract are coming to a natural end – we will be looking to move from Block to a mixture of block and some framework funding, therefore offering greater choice within the established service options.


5. How is the Personal Budget decided?

The Personal Budget should reflect the individual needs and the level of support required to meet agreed outcomes. The amount must be enough to cover the costs of all the support that has been agreed. 


6. What are the funding expectations on schools and the Local Authority in relation to the notional SEN budget and top up funding?

SEN funding in mainstream school consists of three elements:

  • Element 1 – is the basic per pupil funding which schools receive for every child whether or not they have special educational needs. The minimum per-pupil funding levels are £3,750 for Primary pupils and £5,000 for Secondary pupils for 2020/2021 in Bedford Borough, however these figures will change year on year and will change overtime due to changes in demographics.


  • Element 2 funding is to provide SEN support that is additional to or different from the support that most other children get. SEN support is for children who used to have help through School Action and School Action Plus. The local authority provides Element 2 funding for schools it is responsible for. The local Schools Forum agrees the formula that determines the amount of money that each of the schools get. The Education Funding Agency provides Element 2 funding for academies and free schools. Element 2 funding is also part of schools’ delegated budget. Government guidance says schools should provide up to the first £6,000 of additional or different support (roughly the equivalent of 12hrs per week) for those children who needs it, including those with an Education, Health and Care plan. This does not mean that the school will spend £6,000 on every child with SEN. Sometimes schools use funds to help groups of children. Some children will need less help – and some children may need more. The key is the school should be able to evidence the extra resources and what (if any) difference this extra support has had. You can ask your school how it uses its SEN budget to support your child. The local authority also publishes a Local Offer that explains what type of resources this money may be spent on.


  • Element 3 – this ‘top-up’ funding comes from the local authority and is accessed in Bedford Borough through an Education, Health and Care Plan.  In practice, the Local Authority will not expect schools to ask for further support in the form of top-up funding until they have demonstrated that the cost of the provision required by the pupil exceeds the high needs threshold i.e. Element 1 plus Element 2.


7. What happens if the school does not attract sufficient funding through Element 2 to enable them to provide £6000 worth of arrangements for every pupil that needs it?

Local Authorities identify within each school’s budget a notional SEN budget from which they can provide a level of support for all their pupils with SEN.  This is not a ring-fenced amount, and it is for the school to provide high quality appropriate support from the whole of its budget.

The SENCo, Headteacher and governing body should establish a clear picture of the resources that are available to the school.  They should consider their strategic approach to meeting SEN in the context of the total resource available, including any resources targeted at particular groups, such as pupil premium.


8.  Is top-up funding from the high needs block available to academies?

Yes, the same legislation applies to maintained schools, academies and free schools.


9.       Are personal budgets available for children who are home educated?

If the child or young person (CYP) is in receipt of an EHCP and the LA and parents agree that the CYP should be educated at home then potentially the top-up funding would be available as a personal budget.


10.   How often will I receive my Direct Payments?

The first payment will be made as soon as the support plan is approved and processed.  The payments are made 4 weeks in advance.   When the Direct Payment is set up, the Personal Budgets Finance Team will send you a schedule of payment dates so you know when to expect future payments; you will also receive an advice slip after each payment


11.   Does the personal budget requirement enable parents to ask for the money that would be spent on a mainstream school place and use to fund a special school place instead?

Personal budgets cannot be used to fund alternative types of school placement.

  • Should families wish to part fund placements with the LA, then this is separate issue and such discussions will not and should not be part of an EHCP personal budget discussion. 


12.   What if the Personal Budget is not enough to meet the child/young person’s needs or if your request is declined?

If, after the Personal Budget has been agreed, families are not happy with the allocation, there is an appeals process which can be followed. 


13.   What accountability measures are in place for the payments?

In respect of all personal budgets, families are accountable and aware of their accountability during the assessment and planning process. More legal measures (contract) are taken where direct payments are made to the family or third party, in order to ensure that monies are used for the sole purpose of the provision outlined in the EHCP.

  • The LA still maintains responsibility for monitoring the use of resources delegated via the EHCP.  This will be via returns made by the family (where direct payments are in place).
  • In order to limit the additional work this may create in the longer term, Bedford may be looking at card payment monitoring systems, so that electronic monitoring can take place, this is not in place yet. 


14.   What support is provided to help me manage the funding?

Personal Budgets are designed to give children, young people and their families more choice and control and should not be a burden. There are three ways in which a Personal Budget can be managed:

  • Direct Payment - the parent/carer/young person receives the money themselves so that they can buy the support needed 
  • Individual Service Fund – the parent/carer/young person is paid to a third party organisation who organises the services and manages the money on their behalf
  • Managed Fund – Bedford Borough (school, social care or health) manages the money on the family’s behalf

It is possible to have a combination of the above. Some services may be organised by the local authority or health whilst the money to buy other support can be paid to the parent/carer/young person in the form of a direct payment, for example, education might be through a managed fund and social care might be through direct payment. 


15.   What is involved in receiving a Direct Payment?  

A direct payment is a cash payment which enables the parent/carer/young person to purchase and manage services themselves, or they can nominate someone to manage this for them.

  • A separate bank account will be required and invoices and receipts need to be provided which record how the funding has been spent. Monitoring of this expenditure is carried out by the Local Authority.
  • Information and support will be provided on how to become an employer if funding is used to employ a support worker


16.   What support is provided to help choose appropriate services? 

Bedford is working with key third sector providers in the town to consider innovative ways to support families in finding relevant services that will support plans on how outcomes will be achieved for CYP with EHCP.


17.   What support can be currently purchased?

A personal budget can only be accessed in order to support a child or young person to meet the objectives outlined in their Education Health and Care Plan.  In Bedford Borough, the following services can be funded through a personal budget or direct payment. 

  • respite care arrangements, funded from social care budgets 
  • individual travel arrangements to and from school, funded from education budgets
  • some personal healthcare services, funded from health budgets

For all of the above, the personal budget can only be accessed if the child or young person meets the criteria to access the service and it is listed in their EHCP.


18.   Are there limitations on what a Personal Budget can be used for?

There are some limitations on how Personal Budgets may be used or spent as there are some national rules as well as local restrictions, for example, funding which has been used on services which have already been commissioned for the whole population means individual funding cannot be released for individuals (see Block Contracts above). 

  • A Personal Budget cannot be given prior to the EHC Plan being completed which means they are not available for assessments which are required as part of the EHC Plan.
  • The Personal Budget for education will only include the funds needed to buy more specialist or individual support then the school or college is expected to provide. It does not cover the funding for the placement itself.
  • The Personal Budget for health cannot be used to buy primary health services such as services provided by GPs and surgical procedures.

Across education, health and social care there are too many things to list and it is possible that what is suitable for one child or young person may not be suitable for another. However, as long and national and local restrictions are followed, there can be a great deal of flexibility in the choice of how outcomes can be met.


19.   What happens to the surplus money in my direct payment account that I have not used?

If there is surplus money in the account after you have paid for all of your care services and other associated costs, we will require you to return it by either sending us a cheque or pay it directly into Bedford Borough Council’s bank account. Please contact the CWD Team who will help you with this.


20.   What can I do if I am refused a personal Budget?

If the Local Authority refuses a Direct Payment they must explain their decision in writing and also explain to you how you can challenge this decision. 


21.   Do I have to have a Personal Budget?

No. It is up to the parent/carer or young person to decide if they want to accept support in this way. If they decide not to have a Personal Budget, the family or young person will still be entitled to support to meet their child/young person’s assessed needs.


22.   Can a young person make their own decisions about having a Personal Budget?

If a young person is aged 16 or over and is able to make their own decisions about how they want services to be managed, then they are entitled to have their own Personal Budget where appropriate.

23.  What happens if my child or young person’s needs change?

If as a Parent Carer you feel that your child’s (or the Young person (16+ with capacity) feels their) needs have changed significantly, you (they) should contact your lead professional/key worker as soon as possible so that a re-assessment of your child/young person’s needs can be carried out.

24.   Will a Personal Budget affect any entitlement to welfare benefits?

No. The allocation of a Personal Budget will not affect any welfare benefits that the child or young person is entitled to, it is not classed as income. 


25.   Will any entitlement to welfare benefits affect eligibility for a Personal Budget?

No.  There is no link between welfare benefits and personal budgets.

A child, young person or family may be offered a Personal Budget for social care or for health support without having an EHC Plan. Please ask your Social Worker or Health Worker for more information.


26.   I now want to request a Personal Budget and a Direct Payment - but my Child’s Education Health and Care Plan was reviewed two months ago (at that time I was not clear about PB) - Must the local authority agree to my request now? 

No - your request will usually be considered at the next review. However, it may be possible to consider some parts of your request, or to bring forward the review date for the Education Health and Care Plan. Talk to the professionals working with you and they will try to help find to find a way forward. 


27.   How much money will I get? 

This will depend on the EHC plan, and will vary from child to child. The Local Authority must make sure that the amount they pay you is enough to meet the need identified and to purchase the support and services agreed in the plan. 


28.   We both work - does this mean we will not be able to have a Personal Budget? 

No. Personal Budgets are not means tested. However if your child/young person is over 18, and part of the budget comes from Social Care then the family may have to make a financial contribution - you should talk to your social worker about this. 


29.   I do not really understand the difference between a Personal Budget and a Direct Payment. Can you explain this? 

  • A Personal Budget is the agreed amount of funds to that is to be used to meet the assessed needs of your child/young person.
  • It can be made up from three separate funding pots – Education, Health and Social Care.
  • A direct payment is an assessed amount of fund that comes from the Social Care pot
  • Also, Personal Budgets can be notional – whereas Direct Payments can be money paid into a separate bank account for the parent carer or young person buy the services they need themselves.
  • However, some families do not want to manage the Direct Payment funds themselves and are happy for the money to be held for them by someone else. 
  • Any money that have not been used for the specific need that it was identified for must be returned to the Council. 

30. My child has a Personal Budget from social care and I think may get a Personal Budget from Health and Education, do I need three separate bank accounts? 

No, you only need one back account! The money will be put together into one budget and paid to you by the Local Authority who will also audit the account. Health will give their share of the money to the Local Authority. 


31. If I choose to include a one-off item such as annual membership of a gym or a piece of equipment in the plan how will this be paid for? 

If you choose to buy a ‘one off item’ as part of the plan then this can be purchased directly by the Council on your behalf or you can choose to receive a Direct Payment to buy this yourself. The money would be available soon after the plan was agreed. 

32.   My child is on SEN Support does this mean I cannot have a Personal Budget? 

If your child has SEN Support but does not have an EHC plan, then you will not have a Personal Budget provided by Education. However if your child has social care needs and is known to CWD then they might be able to access a Personal Budget for Social Care – which is called a Direct Payment, if you are not sure speak to the Social Worker. 

If your child /yp is receiving support because they have complex health need or a life limiting condition then you should talk to the health professional who organises your support and ask them about a Personal health budget. 


33.   Once the budget for the plan is written can it be changed during the year? 

Yes, as long as there is money left in the budget to make the changes and the changes meet the needs of your child and the outcomes identified in the assessment. Any small changes will be looked at by the worker who completed the plan with you to make sure that the change is in the best interests of your child. 


34.   I want to request Direct Payment for my child’s social care needs. Must the local authority agree to this as my child’s right to a Personal Budget? 

  • No, this is not the case. The Local Authority can only agree to a Direct Payment if they are sure that: 


  • You plan to use the Direct Payment in an appropriate way 
  • You will act in the best interests of the child 
  • Making the Direct Payment will not adversely impact upon other services provided to other children who an EHC Plan 
  • It is an efficient use of the Local Authorities resources. 


  • Also, if the Direct Payment is to be used to support the child/yp in a school setting, then the Head Teacher of the school must agree to this. If they do not, the Local Authority cannot make the payment. 
  • If the Local Authority refuses a Direct Payment they must explain their decision in writing and also explain to you how you can challenge this decision. 
  • If the refusal concerns the personal health part of the plan, then the explanation concerning the refusal must be sent out be the Clinical Commissioning Group who are the health organisation responsible for the decision.