Direct payments

Covid-19 update

We are working with key partners to ensure that people with a direct payment and/or a personal health budget are supported during the pandemic. 

These strong partnerships let us respond quickly and make changes where needed. 

These changes include:

  • increases to all direct payments by 10 per cent to allow for a contingency budget.
  • additional flexibility for direct payment recipients to amend their support package
  • the option to employ family members

Direct payment recipients can also get support to access personal protective equipment (PPE) if needed. 

All direct payment recipients will get a letter that informs them of these changes and the support available. They will also be sent a letter for their personal assistants and carers to identify as key workers 

Please visit our key partners’ website PeoplePlus for more useful resources including information sheets and important updates.

The Department of Health and Social Care have detailed guidance for people who recieve direct payments and personal health budgets.

For more information please read Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for people receiving direct payments.

Covid-19 vaccine and direct payment recipients

There are 9 vaccine priority groups. Health and social care staff are in priority group 2.

This includes personal assistants and carers (PAs) employed by people who get a direct payment or personal health budget.

Direct payment recipients and their PAs can get vaccinated at the same time in Tower Hamlets.

Why do direct payment recipients need to act?

We cannot contact PAs directly. This is because you are the employer and PAs are your staff.

Vaccination is a personal choice and PAs cannot be forced to do it.

But strong evidence shows it will protect everyone in our society. Especially older and disabled people.

Please encourage your PAs to get vaccinated.

Have you already had your first vaccination dose?

You can't book your second vaccine dose through the council’s helpline.

Your vaccination centre will contact you by text or phone call between 8 and 11 weeks after your first dose. This will let you arrange your second dose appointment. 

If you first booked through the national portal, you should use it again to book your second appointment.

If it's been more than 11 weeks and you haven't been contacted about your second dose, please contact PeoplePlus on 0330 123 2815 or

More information

For more details about direct payments and vaccinations, please check the fact sheet.

Direct payments are cash payments made to people who have been assessed as needing social care services from us.

Having a Direct Payment means you are able to arrange your own services or support, you have more freedom, choice and control as you can decide how your needs are met. You can be creative in your thinking on how your budget is used.

If you already receive support from the council and would like to apply for a direct payment, contact the Direct Payment Support Service and let them know that you're interested in receiving a direct payment for your social care needs.

Who can get a Direct Payment?

You can receive direct payments if you're 16 or over, and assessed by the council as needing social care services. For children, visit our children's section for more information.

People caring for someone (carers) who need social care may also be entitled to a direct payment in their own right. Visit our carers section for more information.

What Direct Payments can be used for

You can use direct payments to pay for goods and services identified in your support plan.

There isn't a specific list of goods or services which you can buy to meet your needs.

One of the benefits of using direct payments is that you have the chance to choose less traditional services. For example, you might choose to use your direct payment for support with:

  • personal care
  • getting out and about in the community
  • maximising your independence and well being
  • employing a personal assistant 

Are there any other rules and options I should know about?

There are a number of rules around direct payments. These set out how an amount is calculated, how direct payments can be used, and how they are monitored once it's set up.

Direct Payments cannot be used to:

  • employ a relative or partner who lives in your home, apart from in exceptional circumstances.
  • purchase permanent residential care, but you can use it to pay for short breaks as part of your assessed care needs.

More information

If you get council-funded support at the moment and are interested in getting a Direct Payment:
You can contact the member of staff (e.g. a Social Worker) or team who last set up or reviewed your support. Contact Tower Hamlets Connect on 0300 303 6070 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri) if you are not sure where to start.

Support for people receiving Direct Payments

You can get support to manage your Direct Payment including:

  • support to set up your payments
  • ongoing help to manage your money and using it in the most effective way

You may choose to employ your own worker (Personal Assistant).  If you choose this, People Plus can help you to recruit the right person and understand your responsibilities as an employer.

You may choose to pay a care agency, day centre or other provider.  People Plus can help you find the one that is right for you.

You can use your Direct Payment to get support from the council, or get new support from somewhere else, or you can choose a bit of both.

The important thing is that the support you choose gives you the help you and the council have agreed you need.

Employing a Personal Assistant (PA)

Becoming an employer for the first time can seem daunting. This is why the council has contracted a Direct Payments Support Service to help Direct Payment users to get started, and provide support and advice when they need it.

The support service will provide you with the information you need, for example:

  • employing a Personal Assistant
  • employment law, e.g. employees rights to sick pay, holiday pay, maternity leave;
  • recruiting staff - advertising and interviewing; contract of employment etc.
  • employers’ responsibilities, e.g. national insurance, liability insurances, health and safety.

The Direct Payments policy sets out our approach to personal budgets and Direct Payments.