An EHC Plan brings with it funding considerations to be made by the Local Authority in order to deliver the provision specified in the EHC Plan. For example, the school or college may require additional funding for specialist teaching, therapy, extra support or counselling. It is the responsibility of the Local Authority to ensure that the provision in the EHC Plan is funded properly.
Historically, the funding of provision has been a matter between the Local Authority and the school or college. But with an EHC Plan, parents can have a greater say and responsibility to organise the additional support that is specified in the Plan. When a child or young person receives their draft EHC Plan, there is the option for parents to request a Personal Budget.
In this article, we will be talking about the payment made to the young person, their parents, or another nominated person, so that they can organise their own care and provisions. There are two key terms you will read throughout the piece, direct payment, and personal budget. It’s key to understand the differences between them, which will we unpack below.
What is a personal budget and what does it do?
A personal budget is an amount of funding that has been decided as appropriate to send directly to a young person over 16 years old, or their parents (or nominated person) if they are under 16. In both cases, an EHC plan is a requirement. The budget is used to cover the costs of some of the special educational provisions that have been carefully detailed in the EHCP.
A personal budget is only issued when the request is made during the drafting process, which comes after the EHC needs assessment or alternatively, the parents or young person involved can make a request for a personal budget during the annual review phase.
It’s uncommon for this request to be rejected, however, the local authority may have reasonable grounds to do so. It may be the case that they are unable to dissect special educational services into a personal budget if they have made larger contracts for services already, particularly with the NHS. Of course, you are entitled to appeal for a review if rejection occurs.
There is not a wealth of legal guidance about the usage of the personal budget neither from the Care Act 2014, nor the SEN Code of Practice. This means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, but you must only use the budget to deliver what has been specified in the EHC Plan and in line with the local authority’s instructions.
Details of the personal budget, once approved, will be included in section J of the EHC plan. Section J cannot be appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal but must be agreed upon directly with the local authority.
How to get an EHCP personal budget?
As mentioned above, it’s during the draft EHC Plan process or the annual review that parents or the young person themselves should indicate their interest in having a personal budget approved. The local authority will then consider the request based on how a personal budget will affect the services already being provided, whether it’s fair on other EHCP holders in the area, and whether it’s resourceful regarding finances.
The parents should explain that they are better positioned to arrange the provision for their child. For example, the EHC Plan may specify weekly dyslexia teaching and the parents may already have a specialist teacher working with their child and would like to organise this weekly provision directly themselves.
In most cases, the personal budget being applied for will not be used for all three categories (education, health and social care) and is instead applied for one or two of them, for example, the family may have access to a better social care scheme that could deliver the social care provision specified in ECH Plan.
Once the request for a personal budget has been made, under the Special Educational Needs Regulations 2014, the local authority must give the following information to the parents or young person who will receive the personal budget:
The amount of the budget and what it should be used for
Organisations that provide the services and assistance agreed upon in accordance with the personal budget
The conditions that need to be met before a direct payment is made
In case of a refusal, the LA will set out their reasons in writing. This can be appealed by asking for a review, which can only be done once and it is reviewed by the Local Authority.
What can your personal budget be used for?
The personal budget allows parents and the young person to have more of a say and greater control over the delivery of the provision specified in the EHC Plan. It can only be used to deliver the provision specified and to meet the outcomes identified. Giving the parents or young person control over some of the budget allows for increased flexibility and more specialised services.
Here are some things that it is typically used for:
Carers or personal assistants to help meet assessed needs in the child or young person’s own home
Pursuing indoor and outdoor activities in the local community, such as sports, day trips, clubs, and learning centres
Short stays in care homes or respite centres
Equipment, tools, aids, and technology that is not provided by the NHS, and their ongoing maintenance
Transport costs for outdoors activities or day centres
Attending day services and centres
Just as a reminder, here are the things that the personal budget cannot be used for:
Illegal or illicit activities
Anything related to the NHS or healthcare
Household bills or utility costs
Paying for care directly from close relatives (this is at the discretion of the LA and comes with time limits)
If the Personal Budget is to be used to fund provision or services that take place in school or college, then the permission and agreement of the school/college must be sought and agreed.
The difference between a Personal Budget and a Direct Payment
Personal Budget – this shows what money has been available for the provision of services defined in the EHCP, but to be procured by the parents or young person themselves.
Direct Payment – this is the payment sent to the parents or young person, as defined in the personal budget, to be used to arrange the provision specified, and to meet the outcomes described in the EHCP.
A personal budget may not necessarily include a direct payment. The direct payment must also be requested during the drafting process or annual review, under the premise that the parents or child are better placed to commissions provisions themselves. If the LA doesn’t believe the applicant can manage the money, or that it might be used inappropriately or inefficiently, they may refuse a direct payment.
Where can I find out more?
You can read:
Chapter 9 of the SEN and Disability Code of Practice
Published advice from your nearest SEND advice centre