Self Directed Support (NI)

FAQs about SDS

What is Self Directed Support?

Self Directed Support is a change to the way the social care system operates to give individuals who are eligible for social care services choice, control and flexibility over the support they receive.

This means individuals and their families can choose the way they want their support to be provided – it is personalised to suit a person’s unique needs and circumstances.

SDS was launched in NI in June 2015 by the Health and Social Care Board:

Who is eligible for Self Directed Support?

Anyone can request to be considered for Self Directed Support. Each Health and Social Care Trust follows a set of guidelines to ensure that everyone is considered fairly and to help the Trust decide who is in the greatest need. At present, only those individuals who have been assessed as having “critical needs” are eligible for social care support and therefore the option of Self Directed Support.

The need for help is “critical” if there is likelihood of one or more of the following and the needs cannot be met from another source: 

  • life is, or will be, threatened
  • significant health problems have developed or will develop
  • abuse or neglect has occurred or will occur
  • there is, or will be, no, or only partial, choice and control over vital aspects of the person’s environment (e.g. mobility)
  • hospital discharge is delayed and the individual’s independence is at risk as a result
  • inability to carry out all, or the majority of, personal care or domestic routines which are essential to independence
  • all or most vital involvement in work, education, learning or community participation cannot, or will not, be sustained
  • all, or the majority of, vital family and other social roles and responsibilities cannot, or will not, be undertaken.

What is a Personal Budget?

A personal budget is a sum of money identified by the Trust to meet the assessed needs of a person who is eligible for social care support. Individuals will work in partnership with their Key Worker and/or other organisations to decide how to use their personal budget, to enable them to achieve their aspirations.

What is an Individual Budget?

An individual budget is an allocation of money that can combine several funding sources, for example, this may include money received from a personal budget combined with Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payment or other income.

I have been allocated a personal budget. How is this managed?

The individual’s personal budget can be:

  • taken as a Direct Payment (a cash payment)
  • a managed budget (where the Trust or another organisation holds the budget, but the person is in control of how it is spent)
  • the Trust can arrange a service(s) on the person’s behalf or
  • the person can choose a mixture of these options.

What is a Direct Payment?

This is a cash payment available to individuals so that the person can arrange the services that they need themselves. Direct Payments can be paid to individuals who are eligible for social care services aged 16 years or over, carers and people who have responsibility for a disabled child.

A person who receives a Direct Payment must be willing and able to manage the money – the person becomes the employer and is accountable for the way in which the money is used. Most people use Direct Payments to employ staff as “Personal Assistants”. You should seek specialist advice on this.

What is a Support Plan?

This is a document that records how someone’s personal budget will be used to meet their support needs. The Support Plan should identify the outcomes that the person wishes to achieve from the support that they receive. It will also identify how the person will make use of the personal budget to meet their needs. Individuals can work in partnership with their Key Worker and/or other organisations to develop their support plan.

To discuss how we can support you with person centred practice, personalisation, and provision of self directed support, contact us at or 028 9147 5720.

Risk Enablement Framework

Self Directed Support is one of the ways that is transforming traditional social care services to put people in control of their own support. Self Directed Support moves social care services from a service–led system to one that promotes autonomy and independence by giving people more choice and control over their support arrangements; it is a unique partnership between families, individuals, services, third and independent sector organisations and Government bodies.

However, there is a fear that personalisation leaves individuals who use services open to increased levels of risk. Professionals struggle to balance their ‘duty of care’ with risk enablement and positive risk taking approaches.

The Risk Enablement Framework document aims to explore how to strike a balance between leaving people open to abuse and neglect and ‘wrapping them up in cotton wool’ – to occupy the space in the middle where people are safe on their own terms and are fully in control of their own lives.

Download the Risk Enablement Framework

We are very interested to hear your feedback on the framework. If you have any comments, or suggestion please email them to Karan at