Understanding social care terminology

There’s a lot of jargon in social care - here are few of the key terms you, and the person you care for, might need to know about.

Agency/provider/support provider

This is a term used for organisations that provide social care and support. They may be charities, not-for-profit organisations or private organisations. They will employ the staff who support you.


This is a person or organisation who can help you to find a care provider and draw up a support contract. It’s important that they are completely independent of any support provider, so they can give you impartial advice. If their organisation also provides support, there should be a clear separation between the broker and the provider.

Care manager 

This is the person employed by your local authority who is responsible for commissioning and reviewing your support. You will need to talk to your care manager to agree a personal budget and how you spend it.


This is short for Disclosure and Barring Service which replaced Criminal Records Bureau checks. All staff working with children and vulnerable adults must have a check of their criminal record with the DBS before they are allowed to provide support. This is known as a Disclosure Scotland check in Scotland and Access NI in Northern Ireland.

Direct payment 

This is where you get the money directly paid to you so that you can then pay it out for your support.

Domiciliary care

This is where you get support provided to you in your own home that you either own or rent. This would include support to a child or adult who lives with their parents in the family home.

Personal assistant 

This is a person whom you employ directly to provide support to you or the person you care for.

Personal budget 

This is a way of getting social care support. It means that you know exactly how much money you have to spend on your support. Your local authority is responsible for deciding how much you have to spend but you should be able to choose how you spend it. You will need to agree how you spend the money with your local authority first and they may ask you to agree support outcomes with them. You can choose to have your personal budget as a direct payment or you can ask the local authority to manage the money for you. If you would like a personal budget, contact your local social services department.


This means that support packages are developed around and tailored to each individual’s needs, rather than being an off-the-peg service. Being person-centred should involve creating a detailed plan with each person being supported.


This is short for Resource Allocation System – the method that local authorities use when deciding how much funding each person should receive for their social care.


This means ensuring that people being supported are safe and protected from potential abuse, including physical or financial abuse. It should not be confused with health and safety and is not about preventing people from doing things.

Getting help at home

Find out more about getting help from paid care support workers at home.