Personal budgets are like hen's teeth
Understanding the legislation around personal budgets can be the first step to making them more common place. Gareth D Morewood examines what the law says and answers some of the most common questions.
Earlier this year in SENCology I wrote a blog post about the personal budgets project I am involved in with the charity KIDS (which is different to the charity Kids company). Whilst I continue to see many positive and exciting opportunities with personal budgets, it has been one of the most challenging things I have been involved with in almost 20 years!
Why? Well, amid the raft of other educational change, considering how a personal budget may support specific outcomes in EHCPs is much less of a priority for parents/carers than getting the plan right or, in many cases, simply getting a needs assessment undertaken.
As I continue to try and ensure that everyone involved with current SEND systems and provision does so based on the law, I think it is interesting to see the specific element of the Children’s & Families Act (2014) about personal budgets.
Personal budgets and direct payments
(1) A local authority that maintains an EHC plan, or is securing the preparation of an EHC plan, for a child or young person must prepare a personal budget for him or her if asked to do so by the child’s parent or the young person.
2) The authority prepares a “personal budget” for the child or young person if it identifies an amount as available to secure particular provision that is specified, or proposed to be specified, in the EHC plan, with a view to the child’s parent or the young person being involved in securing the provision.
(3) Regulations may make provision about personal budgets, in particular -
(a) about requests for personal budgets;
(b) about the amount of a personal budget;
(c) about the sources of the funds making up a personal budget;
(d) for payments (“direct payments”) representing all or part of a personal budget to be made to a child’s parent or a young person, or a person of a prescribed description in prescribed circumstances, in order to secure provision to which the budget relates;
(e) about the description of provision to which personal budgets and direct payment may (and may not) relate;
(f) for a personal budget or direct payment to cover the agreed cost of the provision to which the budget or payment relates;
(g) about when, how, to whom and on what conditions direct payments may (and may not) be made;
(h) about when direct payments may be required to be repaid and the recovery of unpaid sums;
(i) about conditions with which a person or body making direct payments must comply before, after or at the time of making a direct payment;
(j) about arrangements for providing information, advice or support in connection with personal budgets and direct payments.
Q&A about the personal budget legislation
Legislation is never written in human-English, so reading the box above may prompt the following questions. Luckily, we also have the answers.
If a SENCo believes a student would benefit from a personal budget, what should they do?
A request for the local authority to identify a personal budget or consider making a direct payment can be made at two specific times. First when a child or young person is undergoing an EHC needs assessment or when the EHC plan is being reviewed.
How do you request a personal budget?
Information about the availability of personal budgets must be contained in the local offer, so check with your own local authority.
‘Regulations may make provision about personal budgets’ – what does this mean?
There are a set of 16 regulations for personal budgets which are worth a read as they explain all the areas of grey between the black and white points you want to get through with your local authority.
What is the difference between a personal budget and a direct payment?
A direct payment is when money is transferred directly into the individual’s bank account in lieu of special educational provision so that they can arrange it themselves. A personal budget may be held by a third party or part of the notional budget. In this circumstance the individual/family does not receive the money directly but is allocated a budget and participates fully in the planning and decision making around how the money is spent.
Although challenging and extremely hard work, I still see personal budgets as an exciting and important part of provision. Hopefully this work I am undertaking with KIDS will have a significant and positive impact for more families and young people in the years to come.
- Take part in KIDS MIP3 survey to improve their guidance on personal budgets and EHC plans
- In Control’s framework for local plans
- Torbay Council Personal Budgets leaflet
- IPSEAS help-sheet
What to look at next from Optimus Education