Short breaks for children who need additional support

What are Direct Payments?

A Direct Payment is the amount of money the London Borough of Sutton pays towards providing a Personal Assistant (PA) as part of your child’s care and support plan.

Direct Payments give parents and carers greater choice and control over the support they receive for their child, and how it is provided.

They are used to arrange and pay for a PA to provide the support and number of hours required, as an outcome of your short breaks assessment and support plan.

How and when will I receive the Direct Payments?

Once your child’s short breaks support package has been awarded at the Resource Panel you will receive a letter confirming the number of hours agreed. Our Finance Team in the Children and Young People’s Disability Service (CYPDS) will set up a pre-paid card account for you and arrange for a pin and chip debit card to be sent to you. 

The Direct Payments funding will be paid into this account and these funds must only be used to fund a PA(s).

Payments are released every 4-5 weeks. Please contact a member of the CYPDS Finance Team (contact details at the end of the Bitesize) for further information on payment dates.

If your Direct Payment is paid as a one off payment, the London Borough of Sutton will only credit the card once with the one off payment amount agreed at the Resource panel. Once the user has used all of the money in the account, no further funding will be added on to the card unless agreed by CYPDS. You can top up the account yourself if you wish to use the account until further funding is agreed. 

Just like debit cards, your pre-paid card has an expiry date. If you card has expired, please contact the CYPDS Finance Team who will issue you with a new one. 

What can I use my Direct Payment for?

When Direct Payments have been awarded, you can ONLY use these funds for a Personal Assistant for the number of hours agreed as part of your short breaks package. Your award letter will detail how many hours have been awarded. The Direct Payment funds CANNOT be used for any other service, provision or equipment. 

Arranging Services

If you have been awarded Direct Payments as part of your short breaks package this means that you have already identified or are looking to identify a suitable person to be a PA for your child or young person. 

A Direct Payment cannot normally be used to employ any partner (married, unmarried or in civil partnership) or any close relative living in the same household. Should you wish to purchase such services you must speak to someone in the CYPDS team BEFORE commencing services. The London Borough of Sutton will only give this permission where it is deemed as necessary and each case will be decided on its own merits.

It is your duty to ensure that you have services when you need them. You should recognise that things can go wrong and be prepared for this by having back-up arrangements such as someone else who can provide support at short notice.

You will be the employer of the PA(s) and responsible for ensuring that all necessary deductions, ie. National Insurance, are made. You may wish to use a payroll service to support with making these deductions on your behalf (for further information, please refer to or request the 'Paying a PA' document from the CYPDS Finance Team). 

If your PA is self-employed, they are responsible for their own deductions, and you can pay them directly from the pre-paid account without the need for a payroll company.

If you arrange services that exceed the cost or scope of the services that are agreed within your support plan, you are responsible for the additional cost of these services.  

Reviewing Direct Payments

A package of support is usually approved for a 12 month period, but this is dependent on individual needs and sometimes we may need to review the support in place earlier. This could be at 3 or 6 months, or, if your child or young person’s needs have changed during this time.

The review focuses on your child’s and family current need, how the Short break package is working and revisits the outcomes that were previously agreed. Once reviewed it could be that the Short break package stops, slightly changes or continues as it has been previously. Your case will be presented at the Resource Panel again for the new package to be approved. Some children respond really well to the packages of support we put in place and meet their outcomes and they may be ready to access universal activities.

If you find that your child or young person’s needs have changed and the package isn’t meeting the identified needs as planned, you can request support from our duty service who will explore small changes to your package, or an early short breaks review.

Monitoring Direct Payments Spends

All Direct Payment funds are uploaded to the Pre-Paid card that has been sent to you in either a one off payment, or on a monthly release cycle. It is now your responsibility to ensure that the money on the pre-paid card is used correctly for the number of PA support hours that were agreed in your award letter. 

Our finance team will be regularly checking and monitoring the use of the pre-paid card to ensure that the funds are spent in accordance with the agreement. You may be required to submit receipts to the London Borough of Sutton for the purposes of monitoring and you will be expected to upload receipts to your online account. 

If you do not use your entire allocated direct payment, we will recover any monies in your account that you are not spending.  However, we will allow you to keep a surplus of 8 weeks of direct payments and will only claim back any monies above this amount.  We will always inform you in writing before we reclaim any amount from you this way.  If you have a valid reason as to why you require more than eight weeks of funding, please highlight this on the return slip that will be attached to the notification of reclaim letter and return this to the Finance Team in CYPDS.  

The London Borough of Sutton may consider terminating this agreement if you do not provide adequate financial records or information when requested.  If you need support to maintain your financial records or are having difficulties in completing your summary, then you must speak to the Finance Team in CYPDS. 

Ending Direct Payments

You are entitled to choose to terminate your Direct Payments at any time. If you require the London Borough of Sutton to arrange an alternative service, a review of your care needs to be undertaken in the form of a short breaks review. 

The London Borough of Sutton retains the right to suspend or terminate a direct payments if:

• You or your authorised person are using the direct payments illegally, fraudulently or outside of the agreed support plan.

• One or more of the terms and conditions of this Direct Payments Agreement are not being met 

• Your health and safety is at risk due to the fact that you are failing to minimise the risks that need to be managed, as identified in your support plan.

• Your authorised person is misusing your direct payments or not acting in your best interests.

• You no longer meet the relevant eligibility criteria for Short Breaks support.

Upon termination of this Agreement, any monies held in your direct payments account will be reclaimed immediately by London Borough of Sutton and the account will be closed.

How do I contact the CYPDS Finance Team?

Please contact a member of the CYPDS Finance Team on 0208 770 6047 / 07729 103334 or at who will be able to support any direct payment or financial queries. 

If your enquiry is related to reviewing your current package, please contact the CYPDS Duty line 0208 770 6010