I started getting them back in June 08 and they've been a godsend for me. Bit of a pain going through the application process and hammering out a reasonable amount and what it will be used for but was so worth it. My Mum used to work for the NHS as a carer but since my latest increase in DP's she's resigned from that job and i now employ her (as carer/mothers help)to help me care for my daughter 2 hours a day. This involves hoisting her out of bed and getting her washed,dressed and fed. It's not enough money for me to have help weekends or school hols but it makes term time so much easier as i have another 4 children to get to school and one of which is autistic. You can use Direct Payments in a number of ways though as long as it is relevant to your childs needs. Even if you only get a small amount initially in time that may increase if you find you need more help. I would say its defiantely worth having a meeting with them. It might be hasstle in the short term but if you get awarded something at the end of it then really worthwhile in the long run
We're awaiting the outcome of our assessment by social services so don't know if we will get anything but its worth asking. You contact social services and they come out and do an initial assessment. They do two assessments in fact one of the child and one of you as a carer.
DP is designed to put the decision making power in the hands of the parents - so they can decide how best the money is spent. So you can decide to get someone to provide respite, or to come in and help with things at home - some people even chose to use it for a cleaner as this then frees up their time with kids. In Brighton and Hove the standard package is 8 hrs a week but some familys get 30 plus depending on their circumstances and how hard they fight for it. But you do have to build on your initial amount awarded e.g. everytime DD shows a new behaviour or circumstances change then you can get them to reassess you. The down side is that you have to work out the tax that they pay as you arethe employer but this is not too tricky. Hope this helps!