Looking at Personal Budgets

It has been a little more than a year since the SEND reforms introduced the right for young people and their families to request personal budgets. Families who are still in the middle of transferring over to EHC plans often have questions about what personal budgets mean for their son or daughter, so here are some answers to the most common questions we’re hearing from Seashell families.

What is a personal budget? How does it work?

Young people up to the age of 25 who have Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans might be able to receive a personal budget, which is a way for young people and their families to control the money which funds their support. This means that young people and their families can have more of a say in choosing how they manage their support packages.

This funding can be delivered in three main ways:

Direct payments, when young people and their families (if they are acting on the young person’s behalf) receive some funding directly to arrange their support

A notional system in which the local authority (or a clinical commissioning group) arranges the support

Third party management, when another person such as a local support broker manages the support

You can also talk about combining the three ways – for example, some people might prefer for their CCG to arrange some services but to receive direct payments to fund others.

The amount of your personal budget represents how much money the local authority thinks the support in the EHC plan should cost in full.

What can we spend direct payments on?

The young person’s EHC plan will identify the support they need, and the personal budget is the funding to secure that support. Direct payments must be spent on things that support the young person achieve the outcomes in their EHC plan; depending on what has been agreed in the EHC plan, this might include funding for Personal Assistants, short breaks, personal care and transport.

Not every service will be funded by the personal budget – for example, dental care cannot be arranged through a personal health budget.

Your local authority will have more information about their policy on personal budgets and direct payments on their local offer website – you can find Stockport’s here.

How do we get a personal budget?

Children and young people who have EHC plans can request a personal budget. For children under 16, parents and carers are able to do this on their behalf - young people over 16 may complete a different post-16 EHC plan, receive a direct payment themselves if appropriate, and can have more of a say in how they want their services to be managed. This request can be made during the planning stages or during reviews.

How does it work in a school or college setting?

In education, personal budgets are available when the school or college cannot provide support to meet the young person’s needs. In these cases, the local authority’s ‘High Needs Block’ of grant funding paid to schools might be used to offer more complex learning support than the school/college could offer.

A personal SEN budget lets the support be personalised to the individual’s learning needs – it does not include Element 1 (the core budget for every school) or Element 2 (the notional SEN budget, which may offer targeted support to groups of learners) funding. Element 3 is the individualised ‘top-up’ funding provided through the personal SEN budget, and covers the support the young person needs to achieve the outcomes in their EHC plan.

The personal SEN budget might be used to arrange for more specialist input, pay for resources to help the young person learn or fund a work experience opportunity, depending on the outcomes agreed in the young person’s EHC plan.

Where do we get more information?

Your local authority should be able to offer you more specific guidance about how they are approaching personal budgets on their local offer websites or through their SEN team. You may also find it useful to ask independent supporters, Information, advice and support services and your local parent-carer forum.

Charities including In Control, Contact a Family and the Council for Disabled Children have more resources on their websites.

Want to learn more about personal budgets in practice? Come to our one-day workshop for parents and professionals on Feb 22nd. Booking now open; please contact family.services@seashelltrust.org.uk for more information