The SEND Code of Practice says:
Local authorities must provide information on Personal Budgets as part of the Local Offer. This should include a policy on Personal Budgets that sets out a description of the services across education, health and social care that currently lend themselves to the use of Personal Budgets, how that funding will be made available, and clear and simple statements of eligibility criteria and the decision-making processes.
A Personal Budget for SEN is money identified to pay for support specified in an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) for a child or young person with special educational needs.
It can include funds from the local authority for education and social care and from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for health.
You child or young person must have an EHC plan to get a Personal Budget for special educational provision. However, you do not have to have a Personal Budget.
When can I request a Personal Budget?
Parents of a child with an EHC plan, or a young person with an EHC plan, can request a Personal Budget either during the drafting of an EHC plan or once the plan has been issued and is under review.
You do not need to have an EHC plan to get Personal Budgets for social and health care, but once you have an EHC plan, or one is being prepared, you can request budgets for all three areas of support. You must have an EHC plan to get a Personal Budget for special educational provision.
However, you do not have to have a Personal Budget.
A young person with an EHC plan can ask for their own Personal Budget after the end of the school year in which they become 16.
What happens if my request for a Personal Budget is not agreed?
Sometimes the local authority or the health authority may not agree to a Personal Budget. If the local authority refuses a personal budget for special educational provision it must tell you why. You cannot appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal over this refusal.
You will be refused a direct payment for special education provision if your local authority believes that it would be an ‘inefficient’ use of its resources, or if it would have an adverse impact on other services it already provides for children with EHC plans. For example, you may ask for direct payments to buy a service from a particular speech and language therapist of your choice. However, your local authority may have already ‘block commissioned’ a particular service to provide this therapy to children in its area, and your chosen therapist doesn’t work for this service. In this scenario you may well be refused a direct payment for the reasons outlined above.
If you wish to use direct payments to buy a service that would be provided on the premises of a school, college or early years setting, then that educational establishment must agree to it. For example, if you wish to employ a therapist to work with your child in the school if the school don’t agree then the local authority cannot give you direct payments
If a parent/carer or young person has requested a personal budget but this has not been agreed by the local authority, or if a decision has been made to withdraw the personal budget, the reason for the decision must be provided to the parent/carer or young person in writing.
In giving its decision, the local authority will advise the parent/carer or young person that they have the right to request a formal review of the decision. The timescales and arrangements for considering a review of the decision will be set out in the letter.
What can a Personal Budget be used for?
Personal Budgets can be used only to fund the support set out in an EHC plan. This must be agreed by the local authority for education and care support, and by the health authority for the health provision.
You can find out what can be included in a Personal Budget in the Essex County Council Personal Budget Policy
A Personal Budget for educational provision cannot cover payment for a place at the school or college. A Personal Budget can include any top up funding (known as Element 3 funding). It can also include support that is managed by the school or college – but only if the Headteacher or Principal agree.
You can find out more about what can be included in a Personal Budget in Sections 9.110 to 9.118 of the SEND Code of Practice.
How much control will I have over my child’s personal budget?
There are four ways you can use a personal budget:
1. Sometimes the local authority, school or college will look after the Personal Budget for you. This is called an Arrangement or a Notional Budget.
An Arrangement or a Notional Budget is where the local authority or the CCG continues to hold all the funds and makes all the support arrangements. Having a notional personal budget means that there should be more transparency about how much funding is available to meet your child’s needs and more discussion with you about how that money should be spent. However, the amount of control you have over how your child’s needs are met is likely to be more limited than the other options outlined
2. Sometimes you can receive money directly to manage all or part of the Personal Budget yourself. This is called a Direct Payment. A Personal Budget can include a Direct Payment if it is agreed that this is the best way to manage part of the Personal Budget.
3.Sometimes you can opt to have someone else to manage the Personal Budget for you. This is called a Third Party Arrangement. This is where funds to buy the support your child needs is paid to someone else, either a named individual or an organisation, to manage on your or the young person’s behalf. This offers more control over how services to your child are provided, without you having to take on responsibility for organising and managing those services.
4. Sometimes you can have a mixture of some or all of these arrangements. For example, it is possible that some of the services your child needs continue to be organised by the local authority, while the money to buy other support is given to you to so you can buy them using direct payments.
What is the difference between a Personal Budget and a Direct Payment?
A Personal Budget shows you what money there is to make some of the provision specified in an EHC plan, and who provides it. The parent or young person does not actually manage the funds directly.
With a Direct Payment the parent or young person is given the money for some services and manages the funds themselves. The parent or young person is responsible for buying the service and paying for it.
A Personal Budget can include a Direct Payment if it is agreed that this is the best way to manage part of the Personal Budget.
Direct payments can be used for special educational provision in a school or college only if the school or college agree. Local authorities can refuse a direct payment for special educational provision if it would make things worse for other children and young people with an EHC plan, or if it would be an inefficient way to pay for services.
You may decide to use direct payments to buy a service from a provider, for example a care agency, or to use a sensory room or short break service. Alternatively, you may decide to employ someone to support your child, and this means you would have all the legal responsibilities of an employer.
How is the Personal Budget Reviewed?
The LA must review at least once during the first 3 months of payments and also when conducting an annual review or reassessment of the EHCP. Yu can can always request a review. The LA can increase or decrease the budget but must ensure there is sufficient funds to cover the provision agreed. Local authorities can stop payments, but it will then be under duty to provide the service instead.
Details of a proposed personal budget should be included in section J of the draft EHC plan. Where the proposed budget includes direct payments for special educational provision, this section must include the special education need (SEN) and outcomes that are to be met by these direct payments.
How much will I get if I have Direct Payments?
How much you get will depend on what has been set out in the EHC plan. So it will vary from one person to another.
If the local authority has agreed to make a Direct Payment it must be enough to pay for the service or services specified in the EHC plan.
How is my child’s personal budget worked out?
Your child’s personal budget should reflect your child’s needs and the level of support that they have been assessed as needing.
The amount must be enough to cover the costs of all the additional support that has been agreed. The more complex your child’s needs and the greater the level of support needed, the higher the personal budget would usually be. The personal budget should be based on your child’s individual needs. Once you have been offered a personal budget, you should ask the local authority (or CCG if a personal health budget) to break down the budget to show how it meets your child’s assessed needs.
If you do not believe that the amount allocated to your child’s personal budget will be enough to buy the support your child has been assessed as needing, you can challenge the amount. The final allocation of funding budget must be sufficient to secure the agreed provision specified in the EHCP.
Are there other kinds of Personal Budget?
Yes – some people have had Personal Budgets for health provision (a Personal Health Budget) and for social care provision (e.g. Fair Access to Short Breaks). They may have managed some or all of the provision using a Direct Payment. But this is the first time that Personal Budgets have become available for SEN provision.