Once a child or young person has an EHC plan, the local authority (“LA”) must ensure the support set out in the plan is made for the child or young person.

Normally, the LA will do this by providing the necessary funding to the school or college attended by the child or young person, in order for them to deliver the educational support needed. However, it is also possible for the LA to consider making a payment to the parent, the young person or another nominated person, so that they can organise the provision themselves. This is called a direct payment.

In order for the parent or young person to request a direct payment, the LA must first identify a personal budget.

What is a personal budget?

The personal budget is the notional amount of money that would be needed to cover the cost of making the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan. You cannot have a personal budget unless you have an EHC plan. Information about the availability of personal budgets must be contained in the LA’s local offer.

Your LA is obliged to consider identifying a personal budget for educational provision only if you request it when they issue a draft EHC plan following an EHC needs assessment or when they are reviewing an EHC plan

In certain circumstances, the LA can refuse to identify a personal budget. They may do so when the special educational provision is being provided as part of a larger budget (for example, a contract with the NHS to provide all speech and language therapy or occupational therapy) and the LA can’t separate out or ‘disaggregate’ the personal budget from that overall larger budget.

How can I get a direct payment?

If you do request a personal budget from the LA, you can at the same time ask the LA to identify which elements of the personal budget which you could then receive as a direct payment. This is an actual amount of money that you would receive so that you could commission the provision in the EHC plan yourself.

The LA can refuse to make a direct payment if they don’t believe the person receiving the payments would be capable of managing the money, or if they do not believe it would be used in an appropriate way. They can also refuse where it would negatively impact other services provided by the LA, or if it would not be an efficient use of resources.

Where the provision proposed to be replaced by a direct payment takes place in a school or college setting, the consent of the head teacher or principal of the named school or other institution is required. If they do not consent then the LA will be unable to make a direct payment.

If the LA refuse to identify a personal budget or make a direct payment, you cannot appeal against that decision but you can ask them to review it.

Where can I find out more?

Detailed information about personal budgets and direct payments are contained in Chapter 9 of the SEN and Disability Code of Practice. The law relating to direct payments and personal budgets is set out in the Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014, as amended by the Special Educational Needs (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2014.