Skip to main content

Transforming the market for social care paper 6: the purchase process - contracting for services by the local authority

Briefing paper | June 2009

This paper explores the arrangements individuals need to make where they are purchasing social care themselves, either entirely with their own resources or by using funding from the local authority under an individual budget or a direct payment. The focus is primarily on the rights and responsibilities of individual service users as purchasers, but consideration is also given to opportunities for local authorities to act as advocates or advisers in these circumstances.

The paper is divided into two sections. The first briefly surveys the legislative background to individual contracts, then sets out the main purchasing arrangements available, before examining in more detail what individuals may choose to buy, the relevant contractual arrangements, the documents they must receive in each case and the topics those documents need to cover.

This discussion is broken down into:

  • Informal purchase of care
  • Employing a personal assistant (PA)
  • Purchasing domiciliary care
  • Purchasing residential care

The section concludes by looking at the legal obligations on individuals under a direct payment arrangement, specifically the nature of the contract they must enter into with the local authority.

The second section then looks in detail at the necessary documentation in each case, and at areas to which individuals need to give particular consideration before entering into any formal agreement. It deals first with the document individuals must produce when employing a PA, then with the documentation they should receive as consumers when purchasing care home and domiciliary care services, including how to guard against unfair terms and conditions.

An appendix provides an example of a local authority individual budget payment agreement.