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Devon’s SEND Local Offer

Social care direct payments

Explaining direct payments

To be eligible for direct payments, you and/or your child must be assessed under the Children Act 1989 as needing, or continuing to need, a service.

Direct payments are financial resources made available directly to either:

  • persons with parental responsibility for a disabled child (as defined by the Children Act 1989)
  • disabled young people aged 16-18 years, following assessment of their needs and mental capacity
  • a nominated third party

Parents or carers of disabled children may choose to have direct payments to buy their own help or support where there is an assessed need under the Children Act 1989. Young people over 16 can also have direct payments under the Children Act 1989 or Chronically Sick and Disabled Person’s Act 1970.  The payment is at the rate at which the Council could provide similar services directly or through a third party provider.

The resource helps you meet the additional assessed needs of disabled children and young people within their family. It is an alternative to arranged help provided by Devon County Council, over and above the help that is accessible and provided by the Government or within your community and family.

Graphic showing the support available to help individual's meet their agreed outcomes.

Direct payments allow you and young people greater flexibility, independence, and control, to employ your own support workers at times convenient to you and in the way you wish, to provide an individual service to meet assessed social care needs and outcomes.

If you request and choose to accept direct payments, you assume the responsibility for organising and managing your child or young person’s care and support needs in line with the agreed social care plan. This sits alongside ordinary parental responsibilities and does not replace the support provided by your family or what you would normally spend on your children, for example paying for food, clothes, toys, transport, and holidays.

You or a young person can request direct payments as the way in which support is provided to meet assessed needs.

You do not have to accept direct payments; if you wish you can choose to receive services that are provided or arranged directly by Devon County Council.

Devon County Council must be satisfied in making direct payments that the child or young person’s welfare will be safeguarded and promoted by the means of direct payments.

When direct payments may be provided (eligibility)

The decision about whether direct payments is appropriate will be made by Devon County Council through our assessment processes. We will initially talk to you to consider the suitability of providing direct payments.

If a decision is made that direct payments is inappropriate, the reasons for this will be clearly recorded and shared with you.

Direct payments may be provided for a child or young person:

  • normally resident in Devon (not placed) between 0 and 18 years of age
  • assessed as having a disability which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and/or
  • where suitable short break provision cannot be accessed within their community, through natural support networks, community-based services and/or early help to provide a short-break.

If, following assessment, your child or young person is deemed eligible we will talk to you about different ways of accessing support.

Definition of disability

The definition of disabled children and young people is set out in the ‘Equality Act 2010’ and is defined as a child or young person who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

This would include:

  • Sensory Impairments (vision or hearing impairment).
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Communication difficulties.
  • Physical impairment.
  • Chronic or life-limiting condition.
  • Complex healthcare needs.

There is support available from Children’s Services and other organisations for children and young people with additional needs resulting from abuse or trauma for example, but who do not have a disability or where a disability is not the primary need.

What are additional social care needs?

Direct payments are one approach to pay for services supporting your child or young person’s additional needs.

SEND Outcomes graphic

Additional needs are those considered to be above the level of support accessible through:

  • parental responsibility and family resources, networks, and targeted government support
  • advice and support provided by Disabled Children’s Service or through the range of services and support accessible as part of Devon’s graduated response including Education, Health and Care Plans
  • accessible services, clubs and groups within the community which are commissioned, or grant-funded by Devon County Council;
  • Early Help support with or without additional targeted services

Social care plans are provided in partnership with education and health services in Devon.

Social care plans take account of the entitlements available for all families. For example, all 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education a year regardless of family income or circumstances. This is also available for some 2-year-olds, for example, if your 2-year-old has an Education, Health and Care Plan or receives Disability Living Allowance, they may be eligible. The entitlement for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds is an additional 570 hours, including childminders. Children in primary and secondary education are entitled to access 25 hours of education per week equating to 950 hours per year regardless of family income or circumstances. Those over 16 years of age on a post-16 study programme designed to be full-time are entitled to a minimum of 540 planned hours per academic year.

If your child has unmet health needs, please talk to a Health Practitioner about Children’s Continuing Care support.

Social care support

Families with a disabled child may require additional support from social care services.

Our Disabled Children’s Service (DCS) offers support as well as advice and practical help. The type of support families could receive depends on the individual needs of your child and family.

There are four levels of support available for disabled children and their families. They are:

  • universal services that all families can access
  • early help
  • targeted support from our DCS (including short breaks)
  • specialist support from our DCS (Social Work Team support)

Find out more about the social care support available

Determining the use and value of direct payments

Direct payments enable the provision of additional support in a manner that will help the child or young person achieve the outcomes recorded in their social care plan and schedule of provision.

Direct payments are considered where an individual’s needs cannot be met through the range of support and services which are accessible to them through a universal community provision or targeted support and/or are insufficient to meet their identified social care needs.

Find out more about how we determine the use and value of direct payments

Choosing the right option for you

A personal budget and/ or direct payments is defined as the total amount of resource provided by Devon County Council to meet your child or young person’s social care needs and support them in achieving good outcomes.

Social care direct payments are one way of delivering some or all this agreed funding in which children, young people and their families can direct their own support to access the agreed services and support.

Social care direct payments can be organised through the following options:

  • An arrangement – where Devon County Council holds the funds and arranges services.
  • Third-party arrangements – where the funding is paid to a person or organisation who acts on behalf of the parent/carer or young person
  • Direct payments – where the parent/carer or young person arranges services themselves
  • A combination of the above

Our teams

If you want to find out more about our teams, or discuss if we are the right service please contact our Pre-referral and Assessment Consultation (PAC) line on 01392 385276 – select option 1.

We support young people (providing they are over 16 years of age), parent carers, and professionals involved with your family. You can ask for a pre-referral and assessment conversation, discuss the outcome of an assessment, or talk with us about options and what is accessible in your community.


This page covers the key things you need to know about direct payments – the full direct payments guidance can be found here.

See our Jargon buster page for definitions of words and terms used within this guidance.

Direct payments and personal education budgets privacy policy

When you are receiving social care direct payments