Direct Payments: Frequently asked questions

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Carers who receive Direct Payments will be aware that the council are undergoing a ‘data refresh’ at the moment in order to improve service delivery and administration. Many of you will have had letters about this. We thought it would be helpful to reporoduce their FAQ which was sent to all parents already receiving Direct Payments. It contains some really useulf information which should make it easier for you to manage your payments:

From Direct Payments Team, Royal Borough of Greenwich:

What is the data refresh exercise for and why do we have to go through it?

The government have issued new guidance to introduce personal budgets and personal health budgets to all children with an Education, Health or Care plan.Part of that guidance tells the council how they should manage and monitor direct payments.

We have also found that some of the information we hold on our system may not be correct.

In order to deal with the situation more effectively we decided that it would be far easier if we did a whole scale data refresh exercise with everyone in receipt of a Direct Payment. This is our first stage of managing and monitoring our system better.

What does the data refresh questionnaire cover?

The questionnaire is very simple and asks you for the name of parent, contact details, details of the child receiving the direct payment, what that payments is used for, how many hours do you receive, how much you get per week and the bank account details. There are a few additional questions at the end of the questionnaire which ask you if you are happy with the service you receive and whether or not you think Greenwich Council should be providing other services that are not currently available. These questions are important as they will help us to improve our service, understand the problems you have and help us provide services that you want and need as part of our local offer.

What if I have had a lot negative experiences and don’t have much positive feedback to give you?

This is perfectly fine and we welcome positive as well as negative feedback. We know that there is room for improvement in the way we manage and monitor the system so it would be very helpful for us to receive honest feedback from you whether it is positive or negative so that we can make the right decisions about how we work.

You are asking me for account details but I don’t have these because the council deals with the payments, how can I give you those?

There are 2 types of accounts that you would generally have with a Direct Payment These are as follows:

• Holding Account – This is where the Council holds an account under your name which the council controls. You sign timesheets and the council makes the payments to the carer or service directly

• Own Account – This is where you open an account for the Direct Payment to be paid into and you have full control over the account. The Council will send you pay slips or teach you how to calculate the carers cost and you pay them directly.

You should have the details of your Own Account and need to provide them in the questionnaire. However, we appreciate that you won’t know your account details if you have a holding account so instructions have been given on the form for you to just input 00-00-00 for the sort code and 00000000 for the account number. If you are unsure of the weekly direct payment, hours or balance in the holding account you can just type unsure. If you want support to complete the form a member of the team will do that for you.

I don’t have access to the internet and don’t know how to complete the questionnaire. What do I do?

Do not worry about that. It’s very simple. You just need to call the number provided on the letter and a member of the team dealing with this will go through the form with you online. We can complete the form at our end online and it only takes a few minutes unless you have queries and a lot to tell us in which case it may take a bit longer. We will always make sure that we go through this with you at a time that is convenient for you.

If I didn’t want to complete the questionnaire, can I opt out of it?

No, unfortunately this questionnaire must be completed by all direct payment recipients. We will do our best to make sure that the process is as easy as possible for you and that you receive all the support you need to complete this. However, if we don’t have the right information, this may affect your direct payment.

What if I have communication needs that stop me from completing this or poor English?

We are here to support you in whatever way is needed, not just to complete the form but to also ensure that you are fully informed about the service you receive and your rights as a user of council service. We will be able to find an interpreter from the service if English language is an issue. Whatever your communication need is it will be catered for.

You have sent me a contract with the letter to sign, is this contract new?

No, this is not a new contract. However, we have found that because families haven’t been reviewed for some time, many people were not issued with the revised contracts in 2012. We decided that just like it’s easier for us to get everyone to do a data refresh, it would also be easier and less time consuming to just get everybody to re-sign a contract with us. This is not a new contract. The contract was updated in 2012, which some of you may not have received at that time.

Why was the contract changed in 2012?

The contract was changed to ensure that it met with the regulations and guidelines set by the government and included the new rule in which direct payment holders are only allowed to build up the equivalent of 8 weeks’ worth of funds per year.

What is the new 8 week ‘accrual’ rule?

Under the direct payment guidelines individuals must not accumulate any more than 8 weeks’ worth of funding allocated to them at the end of the financial year, unless this has been agreed in writing with the Social Worker.

When we say 8 weeks, it doesn’t mean 8 weeks at any one time, for example if you are saving up hours for the summer period, you may have accumulated more than 8 weeks by July. There is flexibility over the year, as long as the extra hours have been used up by the end of the March each year. Any funds accrued over and above the 8 weeks will be clawed back when we do the financial monitoring at the beginning of the new financial year. This is usually going to be between April and June.

In the past I have been saving up my hours because I want to use them during the holiday period or for specific plan – am I not allowed doing this anymore?

The direct payment has to be used to meet the assessed needs of your Childs and the outcomes agreed in their support plan. We understand that there may be times when you feel that there needs to have some flexibility i.e. during the holidays when you may need more support. As long as you have discussed this with your Social Worker and agreed a plan of action it should be fine.

I have struggled to employ a carer for many weeks/months now and have had to manage on my own without any support. My funding has accumulated which is not my fault. What will happen now?

You can speak to your Social Worker or any member of the team who will firstly help you to find a secure and stable carer so that you and your child have their assessed needs and outcomes met.

If there are any accumulations of payments in the account, whether it is a holding account or own account, this will have to be discussed on a case to case basis with the team manager who will make a decision on how much money if any will be taken back if over 8 weeks have been accrued.

Will I get into trouble or will the council take action against me?

The council and the staff are there to help and support you so we do not have any intention to take any action against you or get you in trouble. It is important that we communicate on a regular basis with you and vice versa. If there are any changes to your circumstances you need to let us know. In the same way when you set up your direct payment or if there are any changes to our rules, we also need to make sure that we make you aware of that and support you to follow the right procedure. We are going to start monitoring the direct payments that are spent using own accounts to ensure that we are aligning our processes to the national minimum standards. However, we will help you through that process and make sure that you are fully aware of your rights and obligations equally.

I haven’t had a review of my child’s care package for a long time and I don’t know if I am getting the right support.

In the future, along with the financial monitoring, Children’s services will review the care package at least annually to make sure it is meeting your and your child’s needs.
If your needs change the amount of direct payment can go up or down or stop altogether.

I have a Holding account and don’t always know what I have used. Can I be kept informed of this?

Having a direct payment allows you to have choice over the way your services are provided. However, it also requires you to be responsible to manage it. We provide holding accounts to support you in managing the financial part – so you don’t have to worry about payroll, tax, and insurance – but you will need to keep your own records of how many hours you have used.

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