Direct payments

Learn what direct payments are, how they're paid, what you can use them on and how to set them up and manage them.

COVID-19 update

Read our coronavirus direct payment factsheet (PDF, 86KB) which gives you the information that you might need as a person using your direct payment to employ staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Suffolk County Council will be more flexible around how you use your direct payments. If you're not able to access your normal care and support, we want to help you find alternative support quickly and easily. You may still be asked to pay for services that you are not receiving. We recognise that this may be important to make sure that those care and support providers are able to carry on working in the future.

If you are paying for a service you are not receiving and you need additional funds to allow you to make alternative arrangements please call Customer First on 0808 800 4005 who can arrange for you to discuss this with your social work team.

If you employ a Personal Assistant

Key worker letter

Your personal assistant (PA) may need proof that they are a key-worker and that they are travelling to support you as a vulnerable person during current government restrictions. You can complete our direct payments personal assistant COVID-19 letter template (Word, 19KB) and give it to your PA to carry with them.

Booking a test

If a PA or carer that you employ, or a member of their household, has the symptoms of Covid -19 they are now able to access the testing for essential workers. Visit to book a test. They need to confirm that they are an essential worker and then when prompted later in the process confirm that they work in social care. Alternatively you can book a test on their behalf by following the guidance here


You can find updates around workplace pensions for people that you employ from the Pensions Regulator here.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

If your Personal Assistant/carer is self-employed then it is their responsibility to provide the PPE they need to look after you safely.

You can use your direct payment money to purchase any PPE needed for people who you employ. You need to follow the government guidance about the use of PPE by your carers.

Please note that this information has been subject to changes, so please use this link to find out the latest information.

You should be continuing to maintain your own stocks of equipment, through your existing supply arrangements, through any new suppliers that you are able source or the National Supply Disruption line:

However, we do recognise the national demand and shortage issues. In consequence, the County Council has now secured emergency supplies of equipment to be made available in situations of absolute necessity. For you, as an employer, to be able to take advantage of this last resort supply, we do expect that you have taken the steps identified above in attempting to maintain your own supplies.

Where it is clear that you have taken such steps, but are at risk of your stock being exhausted within 14 days and with no sign of replenishment, you will be able to request emergency additional equipment to tide you over until your supplies are replenished.

In order to request such emergency supplies you need to complete a request form. Please state that you employ staff using a direct payment.

Further Guidance

Read current guidance for Direct Payment recipients published by Government (21 April 2020).

A direct payment means that we pay your personal budget directly to you or someone acting on your behalf.

This payment will come from either Suffolk County Council (SCC) or Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).

The money is paid every four weeks in advance into a bank or building society account that you have set up only for your direct payment money.

What can a direct payment be used for? 

You can only use this payment for goods and services that we have agreed in your care and support plan. These may include:

  • care services that you can use in your home from an agency · employing someone to help you, such as a personal assistant
  • using a home care agency to employ someone for you
  • paying to attend a day care service
  • paying for some respite care services
  • paying for leisure activities
  • buying equipment to help you

You are not able to use your direct payment to pay for:

  • permanent care in a residential or nursing care home
  • ordinary household expenses such as utility bills, rent or mortgage payments or food
  • gambling
  • anything illegal
  • anything that does not contribute to meeting your needs or achieving the outcomes that you have agreed in your care and support plan
  • employing a close family member living in the same household, unless the local authority has agreed this

Setting up a direct payment

When you decide that you would like a direct payment, we will ask you to:

  • sign an agreement
  • give us details of the account that you would like us to pay the money into

You'll need to understand the agreement that you are being asked to sign. The person from SCC or NSFT who is helping you to arrange your care should explain these in more detail to you.

Managing direct payments

You can find more information about managing direct payments in our booklets:

These files may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.