Choosing direct payments

Direct payments are offered by your local authority to give you more flexibility over how your care and support is arranged and provided. They can be given to you if you have a care and support need or if you’re a carer.

Direct payments were introduced to give you more choice and control over the arrangements of your care and support and to help you live more independently. If you have a direct payment, the money you get can be used to buy the services you need to meet your care and support needs.

With a direct payment, you can choose who helps you with your payments, and when and how they help you. You may also be able to make choices about any equipment you might need to support you to live independently.

What are direct payments?

Direct payments are payments made to individuals who have care and support needs or carers who are eligible for support. The money you receive can be spent on things that help meet your needs, as agreed in your support plan. The way your direct payment works will vary depending on if you are receiving a direct payment because you are a carer, or because you have care and support needs.

Who can get a direct payment?

You can get a direct payment if your local authority carries out an assessment of your needs and decides that you have care needs and you are eligible for support.

cheerful kids with disabilities in rehabilitation centre

You may be eligible if you:

Once you’ve had an assessment of your care needs and it’s been identified that you do need support, you’ll need to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you will need to pay the full cost of care or whether you and your local authority will contribute to the cost of your care. If the assessment shows that you are required to pay the full cost of your care (i.e. you are a self-funder), you will not be eligible to receive a direct payment.

If you are eligible for a direct payment because you have a care need and can receive a contribution to the cost of your care from your local authority, you have the option to choose whether or not you have a direct payment. No one will ever force you to have one and you can change your mind at any time.

If you do decide to have a direct payment, you’ll need to request this. You can change your mind about this at any time and ask your local authority to arrange services for you instead.

To receive a direct payment, you need to be aged over 16 and you must be able to, and willing to, manage your direct payment.

How to use your direct payment money

Your direct payment money can be spent on different things that help to meet your needs. Your needs will be identified as part of your assessment by the local authority.

For example, your assessment may mean that your direct payment can be used to:

  • pay for support to help you at home
  • employ a personal assistant to help you with getting washed and dressed
  • buy your care from a care agency
  • pay for a short term break, but not an overseas holiday
  • pay for small equipment to help you

If you choose to employ someone or pay an agency to provide services to you, your local authority will support you on how to begin the recruitment process.

Your direct payment can only be spent on things that will meet your assessed needs. If you spend a direct payment on something that doesn’t meet your needs, social services can recover the money from you or discontinue your direct payment agreement.

As your local authority will be paying into or contributing to the money in your direct payment, this is public money that needs to be monitored and accounted for.

How to receive your payments

In order to receive your direct payment, Havering Council will set up a pre-paid account for you. A pre-paid account is loaded with your direct payment money every 4 weeks, 13 times a year. Having a pre-paid account will enable you to pay for services online and make card payments.

You can choose the best option for you in how your pre-paid account is managed.

Manage your direct payment yourself

You can have your direct payment paid directly into the pre-paid account and you will have responsibility for managing the money yourself.

Nominate someone to manage your direct payment for you

If you are unable to manage your direct payment yourself, you can nominate a person to look after your direct payment for you. To do this, Havering Council will set up a pre-paid account in the nominated person’s name so they can manage the account on your behalf.

Have an agency manage your direct payment for you

If you don’t wish to manage your direct payment yourself, the money can be paid to a third party company to manage this on your behalf. For example, this might be a payroll agency that manages your payments and pre-paid account on your behalf.

How to apply

To apply to receive a direct payment, contact your local direct payments team from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday by emailing or by calling 01708 432503 or 01708 433478.

New ways of working

If you currently receive a direct payment from Havering Council, there may be some changes to how you receive your direct payment money.

Havering Council has introduced the ability for people receiving direct payments to have a new pre-paid account. Having a pre-paid account has lots of benefits, which is why we’re offering the account to everyone who receives a direct payment in 2017.

To help you understand the changes, we’ve produced a set of frequently asked questions below which we hope will answer any questions you may have.

What is a pre-paid account?

Having a pre-paid account is very similar to having a normal bank account and it will come with a card. The pre-paid account is loaded with your direct payment money from the Council every four weeks, and you can use the card to pay for your care and support and items that meet your needs, as identified in your support plan. The card works just like any other debit card. This means that it can be used for payments in person, over the phone or online. It also means you can set up standing orders from your pre-paid account to pay for the care and support you need on a regular basis.

What are the benefits of the pre-paid account?

We know it can be a lot of work for direct payment holders to manage and regularly submit paperwork associated with your direct payment. By having a pre-paid account, this means you’ll no longer need to submit quarterly spend forms, receipts or invoices to the Council, as long as you don’t withdraw cash from your pre-paid account. This is because we’re changing the way we work so we can see your spend online, making it easier for us to monitor your direct payment spend and reducing paper submission. Having a pre-paid account will also make it easier for you to track your spend and manage your finances, with the opportunity to view your spend online and turn on notifications by text* or email when there’s activity in your account.

*you may be charged for text notifications

Do I have to have a pre-paid account in order to receive my direct payment?

Yes, everyone who receives a direct payment will have a pre-paid account and we will offer support to make it work for you. You can manage the account yourself or you can have a payroll agency or someone you trust manage your direct payment for you if you chose to. In exceptional circumstances only, you may be able to receive your direct payment without a pre-paid account.

How can I use the pre-paid account?

You can use the pre-paid account to make online payments, telephone payments and payments in person using a card reader like you would with any normal bank card.

Are there any fees for using my pre-paid account?

As of March 2017, there is no charge from the Council for you to have a direct payment pre-paid account. However, you will be charged a fee of £3.50 to replace a lost pre-paid card. These fees may change in the future and you will need to contact the direct payments team or visit the direct payments webpage for up to date charging information.

What if I try to spend more than what’s in my pre-paid account?

If you try to spend more money than you have in your pre-paid account, your card will be declined and the transaction will fail.

Will my pre-paid account have a credit limit?

No, there is no credit limit on your pre-paid account. You will only be able to spend the amount of money that is in your pre-paid account. You will not be able to spend any more money than is allocated to you.

If I pay a financial contribution, can I pay this into my pre-paid account?

Yes – if you contribute towards the cost of your care, you will be able to transfer payments directly into your pre-paid account online. You can do this online, over the phone, by setting up a standing order or by contacting your own bank.

Can I withdraw cash from an ATM using my card?

No, you cannot withdraw cash from an ATM using your card. If you think you will need to use cash in order to pay for your care and support, you will need to discuss your circumstance with the direct payments team at the Council.

Will I have to keep my receipts?

Yes. We advise that you keep hold of your invoices and receipts for up to six years as HM Revenue and Customs may request it. The Council may also request evidence to transactions that aren’t compliant with what’s in your care and support plan or during a Council audit.

When will I get my new card and pre-paid account details?

You will receive your new card and account details in the post after you have signed your direct payment agreement with the local authority. You will receive instructions on how to activate your pin number when you receive your new card and pre-paid account details.

Will my card ever expire?

Yes, you can find the expiry date on the front of your card. If your card is about to expire, and is still active, please contact Prepaid Financial Services on 020 7127 6804 if you have not received a new card. Any balance remaining on the card will be transferred to the new one before it’s dispatched to you.

What should I do if my card is lost or stolen?

If your card is lost or stolen, you should contact Prepaid Financial Services straight away or as soon as you notice the card is missing on 020 7127 6804. You will have to pay a fee for a replacement card.

What should I do if I forget my pin number?

If you forget your pin number for your pre-paid account, you can call Prepaid Financial Services on 020 7127 6804 or by email to to have your pin number reset or given to you.

Contact the local authority

If you wish to apply or learn more about direct payments, contact Havering Council’s direct payments team from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday on: 01708 432503 / 01708 433478.

Or you can email

Download the direct payments booklet for more information.

Get in touch with us on: 01708 776770 (Select Option 2) or via online forms