SDS Oxfordshire


Self Directed Support (SDS) is intended to give you more choice and control over your care by giving you a Personal Budget to cover the cost of the care and support you need.

It can help you to live as independently as possible and develop better links with your local community by putting you at the centre of planning the social care support you need.

Am I eligible?

  • Self directed support and personal budgets are for meeting your social care needs.
  • This is support you may need to manage everyday things such as shopping, housework, getting out and about and personal care.
  • To qualify for self directed support you need to have critical or substantial social care needs based on the Fair Access to Care Services criteria.
  • The fair access to care services criteria are based on government guidance to ensure that decisions on receiving care are made fairly, openly and consistently.
  • Your care co-ordinator will assess this and tell you if you qualify for social care support.
For more information about fair access to care services and what the criteria are see Fair Access to Care Services leaflet and Oxfordshire County Council’s web page on Fair Access to Care Services

What will happen?

The self directed support process for mental health is incorporated into the care programme approach (CPA). Your care co-ordinator will oversee the process but you will be at the centre of what happens.

If you are currently receiving support from the community mental health teams you will be assessed for self directed support at your next review. If you are not sure when this is you can ask your care coordinator when this is due.

If you do not currently receive mental health services you will need to go to your GP to see if a referral to the community mental health team is appropriate for you.

The different stages of the process are set out below:

1. Assessment

Your care co-ordinator will complete a self directed support assessment with you as part of your CPA assessment. This assessment will look at what your social care needs are and what you need help with.

If you have a family member or friend who provides care for you they can have a carer’s assessment. More information can be found on the Friends and Family page on Oxford Health’s website.

2. Indicative Personal budget

After you have completed the assessment your care co-ordinator will send your assessment off to Oxfordshire County Council to get an indicative personal budget. Your budget is worked out using a formula which takes into account your identified needs and personal circumstances such as where you live and the support you already receive.

How Personal Budgets are calculated in Oxfordshire (Information from Oxfordshire County Council – This will open in a new window)

You may be asked to make a contribution towards the cost of your support. To work out how much this contribution may be Oxfordshire County Council will need to carry out an assessment of your finances. The Council will make sure you are told of any assessed contribution before you incur these costs.

For more information on social care charges see Oxfordshire County Council’s web page on Social Care Charges

If you are on Section 117 you will not need to contribute to the cost of your support.

3. Support Planning

Once you have an indicative budget you can then start planning your support. To do this you will create asupport plan. Your support plan is personal to you and can be in whatever form you like. For further information click here.

4. Agreeing your support plan

When your support plan is finished, you will need to get the plan agreed by your care co-ordinator before any money can be released. They will check if your support plan meets your assessed needs and islawful, effective and affordable.

5. Managing your personal budget

When you are planning your support, you will need to decide how you wish your money to be made available. There are different ways the money in your personal budget can be managed for more information click here.

This money is not personal income and so will not affect your benefits.

6. Reviewing how it is going

Your support plan will be reviewed after 12 weeks to see how it is working. It will then be reviewed as part of your regular CPA review.

If you feel your support needs have changed you can ask your care coordinator for a review of your assessment.

Support planning

Support Planning is the stage where you plan how you are going to use your personal budget to meet your support needs.

You can make your support plan yourself, someone else can help you with it or someone can do it for you. You may be able to get help from your family or friends or someone who specialises in support planning (a ‘support broker’). Brokerage support can be provided by your care co-ordinator, a support worker within your community team or by an external support broker provider.

Your support plan can take any form however it must meet your assessed needs and be Lawful, effective, affordable.

Further information

Further information can be found on Oxfordshire County Council’s website on self directed support –

Click on the links below to take you directly to the relevant sections.

Managing your budget

There are different ways you can manage your personal budget. Your care co-ordinator or broker will be able to help you decide how to use your personal budget by advising you about various support solutions. You will have decided how the money will be managed in your support plan.

Direct Payment

You can choose to organise your support yourself by receiving a direct payment from the Council. This can go to you or to someone managing it on your behalf. You will need to open a separate bank account for this money to be paid into. The council will pay you your personal budget less the amount you have been assessed to contribute.

You then use this money to pay for the services you are receiving. If you are having care from an agency they will send you invoices to pay. You can also use this money to employ a personal assistant directly. This can be a friend or even a family member as long as they don’t live in the same household. You will need to ensure you have budgeted for costs such as tax and national insurance.

There is help available with managing your money as a direct payment and employing people. You will be referred to this when a direct payment is requested.

For further information on direct payments see Oxfordshire County Council’s webpage on direct payments

Managed Budget

You can ask the council to pay a third party or pay for a service on your behalf. The council will pay the service directly and then send you invoices for your assessed contribution.

Questions and answers

These questions were asked by people who use mental health services and their carers at information events.

Eligibility and assessment

1. Who will be able to have a personal budget?

Self directed support with personal budgets will be made available to mental health service users who are eligible for social care support. Eligibility for social care support will be based on an assessment of need using Fair Access to Care Services criteria (FACS). Only people eligible under FACS will be able to have a personal budget.

Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) is a national guidance from the Department of Health on eligibility for social care services. FACS identifies eligibility based on levels of need: critical, substantial, moderate and low. Oxfordshire’s policy is to provide services to meet critical and substantial levels of need. FACS criteria should apply to all social care services.

The assessment carried out by the assessing practitioner of a community mental health team will establish the individual’s eligibility for social care money under FACS.

2. Does anyone not get allocated a budget?

Only people who have been assessed as not being eligible for Social Care Services will not be allocated a personal budget, however not everyone chooses or will be able to receive their allocated budget as a direct payment, in some instances the council or a third party will help to manage the money.

3. How can we ensure that the person being assessed can be supported by their family member or friend who knows the real situation?

The person themselves can decide who they want to be present at their assessment. If the person lacks capacity to partake in their assessment, the family’s views will be taken into account as part of the assessment.

4. My needs change; sometimes I’m well, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I need services, sometimes I don’t. How will SDS support me?

Your care co-ordinator will assist you with your support plan, which will take into account that your needs may fluctuate at times. Receiving a personal budget under SDS should be able to give you more flexibility for times when you need increased support.

5. Having not had services for a while, how do I access an assessment?

If you are known to the Mental Health Services you can phone your CMHT and ask for an assessment. However if you are not known to services you will need to go to your GP in the first instance, who will need to work with you to decide whether a referral to the CMHT is appropriate at this time.

6. Will all mental health and physical disabilities be able to be taken into account?

The assessment under SDS will be integrated into your CPA assessment and will therefore be able to take fully into account all your health and social care issues including any physical disabilities you may have. If you require a specialist service from another service you will be referred to this as appropriate

7. Can I have my needs as a carer assessed?

Yes, all carers are entitled to an assessment in their own right. Speak to your care coordinator about arranging a carer’s assessment.

Personal budgets

8. Can a personal budget be used for health care services?

No. A personal budget can only be used for social care services. It is illegal to spend social care money on health care services. You need to be assessed as eligible for social care services in order to get a personal budget. The assessment may be carried out by a social worker, a community psychiatric nurse or an occupational therapist who works for one of the Community Mental Health Teams. Sometimes they are also called care co-ordinators.

9. How can you tell what’s a social care service and what’s a health care service?

In mental health services, social and health care services can seem interlinked. The practitioner carrying out the assessment of need will be able to advise on what is a social care service and what is a health care service. Social care services are provided to people to achieve social care outcomes like increasing someone’s independence or well being. Health care services are provided to people to achieve health outcomes like meeting a medical need or achieving better mental health.

10. When will Self Directed Support with Personal Budgets be implemented in mental health?

The Self Directed Support with Personal Budgets for people who are using mental health services in Oxfordshire is due to be fully implemented by September 2011, which means that by then all new service users and all existing service users are expected to have a personal budget.

If you are currently in receipt of a service you will be assessed for Self Directed Support at your next CPA review.

11. Will everyone have to have a Personal Budget even if they don’t want them?

Everyone with an eligible social care need will eventually have a personal budget. However you can engage with self directed support as much or as little as you would like to. Everyone still has the option to ask their care co-ordinator to continue to arrange all support services for them or they arrange some or all of their support themselves. It’s the individual’s choice. No one is forced to take on more choice and control.

12. Will personal budgets mean carers have to provide more support?

Personal budgets should not result in increased demands on carers. The assessment will take into account how much support a carer is willing or able to provide. However, under Self Directed Support, the service user has the option to employ somebody they already know and pay them for the service they provide via a direct payment. The only rule is that the chosen person does not live at the same address, otherwise they would not be entitled to payment under Self Directed Support.

13. What can people spend their personal budget on?

There is no list of the kinds of services users can spend their personal budgets on as this will be different for everyone. Therefore the council will agree your support plan on an individual basis. Your support plan must meet your eligible assessed needs.

Your support plan must be lawful, effective, affordable and answer the following questions:

  1. Does the plan convey what is important to you?
  2. Have you identified clear, achievable changes/goals?
  3. Is there a detailed plan for support?
  4. Does the plan show how the budget will be used?
  5. Does the plan show how the support/money will be managed? What are the contingency plans?
  6. Does the plan show how you will make decisions or be involved in decision-making about your life?
  7. Is there a clear action plan for putting the support in place?

Your care co-ordinator will have to agree your support plan and submit it for approval. Once your support plan has been agreed your personal budget will be made available to you.

14. Will there be an annual uplift to the budget?

No. Your needs will be reviewed at least annually and any adjustments would be made then.

Direct payments and charges

15. How do Direct Payments fit with Self Directed Support?

Direct payments are one way in which you can receive a personal budget as part of self directed support.

These are payments made to a person directly so they can arrange their own support, buying services from providers or employing their own staff. Although direct payments were available to you before the implementation of Self Directed Support, you will now have the possibility to spend their direct payment with a lot more choice and control on services that are able to meet your assessed needs e.g. by employing a Personal Assistant. You can receive part or all of your personal budget as a direct payment. Those people who do not feel comfortable to arrange their own support can choose to let their care co-ordinator continue arranging all or part of their support for them.

16. Is there support available to help people manage their direct payments?

Yes. In Oxfordshire the council contracts A4e to help people set up and manage their direct payment. A4e can also provide a payroll service for paying a personal assistant if you want this.

For more information about the services they offer see their website:

17. How will charges work with Self Directed Support?

As soon as possible after the assessment of need, a financial assessment will be carried out. This will provide information to decide how much, if at all, a service user should contribute to their personal budget. People who ask the council to arrange their support will receive invoices (monthly bills) for their contribution. If the individual chooses to receive a direct payment, their payment will be reduced by the amount they are assessed as needing to contribute.

18. Will there be a limit to the financial contribution I may have to make?

You will have to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you have to make a contribution to your care and this varies with each individual. However, we would never ask anyone to contribute more than the actual cost of care. A personal budget is not classed as a personal income; therefore it would not affect your benefits.

19. What is the monitoring process to justify how direct payment money has been used?

People receiving a direct payment are required to keep receipts of their payments in case the Council needs to check that the direct payment has been used correctly.

A4e can also help you in managing this.

Support planning and putting things in place

20. Will Self Directed Support mean I have to change the services I currently get?

No. You do not have to change your service if you are still eligible for support and are happy with the support you receive.

21. Will new services be available for people to buy using their Personal Budgets?

As use of personal budgets increases, the market of social care services is likely to change as people choose different kinds of services. However, these changes will not happen overnight. The commissioning team within social services are looking at the social care service market and are working with providers to encourage new and more flexible services.

22. Who will be available to help people with planning their support?

The person’s care co-ordinator who has completed the assessment can help as can a carer, family and friends or an advocate. In Oxfordshire, the person can get involvement and support from a “broker”. This is a person who specialises on helping people to do their support planning by helping them to find out what services are available and how it is best to spend their personal budget.

23. Will carers be involved in the development of support plans?

Yes if they want to be. Carers are also offered a carers assessment to look at their needs.

24. Can people change their support plans?

Yes. You should ask for a review and can do this at any time if you feel your needs have changed and/or your support no longer meets your needs.

25. Do people have to have a Direct Payment to access different kinds of services?

Currently there are some restrictions on what services the council can buy. This means people receiving direct payments may find they are able to access a wider range of support than what is available through the council.

26. What happens with Self Directed Support if someone needs urgent help?

If someone needs urgent help, this might not be the best time for them to think about self directed support. In this case, we can arrange services on a temporary basis and then discuss self directed support with them at a later date when they are more able to consider this.

27. Where can I get a personal assistant from?

Oxfordshire County Council has developed and introduced a new training and checking programme for people who want to work as Personal Assistants. This scheme is called Support with Confidence. After completing all training and checks successfully, they become Approved Personal Assistants and are given a certificate as proof.

More information and the latest list of approved personal assistants can be found from their website, by contacting 0845 050 7666 or emailing

28. Who is responsible for CRB checks and checking references for Personal Assistants?

If you hire a personal assistant who is part of the Support with Confidence scheme they will already have had an enhanced Criminal records bureau check and reference checks done by the county council.

If you hire your own personal assistant directly you will need to arrange these.

More information can be found from Oxfordshire County Council’s website: Hiring a Personal Assistant

29. If I opt for a direct payment to employ people myself, who is responsible for sorting out National Insurance, liability insurance and tax?

It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that any payments due to the inland revenue are made.

A4e offer a payroll service to do this for you.

30. If I employ a personal assistant and they go off sick, what happens then?

Your care co-ordinator will help you to complete your support plan. Your support plan will have to take into account what will happen in situations when your personal assistant is off sick or on annual leave.

31. Can I pay family members to carry out the care for me?

Yes you can as long as they are not family members living in the same house as yourself. Any arrangements would have to demonstrate that they are in your best interest.

32. What if I do not want the hassle of arranging my own care?

You can ask your care co-ordinator to arrange your services for you.

33. How can you buy something that isn’t available yet e.g. how can we ask agencies to cater for our needs at certain times if they still run on the same system as before with the same staff situation? How will they be able to cater for us under SDS e.g. if people ask to be seen at the same time?

Under SDS providers may need to change how they operate or you may need to change your provider to one that can better meet your needs.

34. Will I get enough money via direct payment to keep my present care agency?

This is not guaranteed. It depends on the rate your agency is charging and whether they are willing to negotiate an affordable hourly rate with you.

35. What happens if the amount assessed does not match your current provision which meets your needs? Would you have to top up and if so what happens if you don’t have the funds to do so?

When you are assessed your personal budget will be calculated to enable you to meet your current needs. If you choose to use a provider that is more expensive than your personal budget can meet, then you are able to top up the difference. The council has the duty to meet your assessed needs in the most cost effective way and within the resources available to them.

36. What happens when a private agency wants to increase the cost?

All requests for increased costs would have to be negotiated with the provider by you or someone who can negotiate for you. If your personal budget is inadequate to meet your eligible care needs then you would have to discuss this with your care coordinator.

37. Can additional services be paid for from an Agency on top of the agreed services set out in the support plan?

Yes you can purchase additional care yourself.

Risks and keeping you safe

38. How will the quality of care be monitored if people are arranging their own care?

Your care co-ordinator will check with you at your review that your needs are being met and that you are satisfied with the care you are receiving. If you are experiencing any problems with your care in between reviews you can contact your care co-ordinator or your local Mental Health Team.

39. Will Self Direct Support mean that people are put at more risk?

No. People’s support plans will identify any risks and how these will be managed. The support a service user receives will be reviewed regularly to make sure this continues to meet their assessed needs and any risks are managed.

Safeguarding procedures will apply whether the service user chooses to arrange their own support or they ask the council to arrange their support on their behalf.

40. Money given to people could result in an unsafe situation if that person has a mental health episode. What safeguards will be in place for this?

Cash given to someone would be in the form of a direct payment which should only be spent on the support identified in that person’s support plan. How a direct payment is spent is monitored through regular financial statements provided by that person or someone acting on their behalf, like a carer, relative or a friend. If a direct payment could put someone at risk, this would be considered as part of their care plan. It would also influence the decision to make a direct payment available to someone.

41. Who is going to regulate the carers that will be available to us, how can we make a good choice? What info will be available to us about agencies/carers to enable us to make a good choice?

Care agencies are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Information about care agencies can be found on the CQC website or you can phone them on 03000616161. If you are employing your own carers through a direct payment they are not regulated as such but this will be discussed at your review with your care co-ordinator.

Oxfordshire County Council operate the Support with Confidence scheme this providers details of personal assistants who have been approved by the scheme.

They have had an enhanced CRB, reference checks, received training and have agreed to terms and conditions and a code of conduct.

More information about the scheme can be found from Oxfordshire County Council’s self directed support website: Hiring a Personal Assistant

42. Who will help if I have problems with my care?

If you are having problems with your care you can contact your care co-ordinator or your Community Mental Health Team.


Further information

Where can I get more information?

Useful links

Oxfordshire County Council have put together links to further information on self directed support on their website Taking Control Oxon – Links Page

Personal Assistants

Oxfordshire County Council
County Hall
New Road

Social and Health Care phone: 0845 050 7666
General website:
SDS Website:

Support with Confidence

Social and Community Services
County Hall
New Road

Telephone: 0845 050 7666
Fax: 01865 783111
SMS: 07788571577

In Control

A national organisation that works to promote SDS and personal budgets. Their website has a large amount of easy to read information.

In Control Support Centre
Carillon House
Chapel Lane
West Midlands
B47 6JX

Telephone: 0156 482 1650
Fax: 0156 482 4260

Department of Health

Department of Health Website information on Social Care:

We are not responsible for the content of external websites.

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Page last reviewed: 2 November, 2023