Hiring your own care or personal assistants can be complicated. It helps to know where to go for help and what your rights and responsibilities are. People often call Muscular Dystrophy UK’s helpline with queries about employing carers, so we hosted a Q&A on our Facebook page. Banane Nafeh from Disability Rights UK, who specialises in the topic, helped host the Q&A. Here is what was covered on the day.
Q What are the different methods of funding PAs? Some people seem to have direct payments and others have personal budgets, what are the differences and what are the advantages of each?
A Every local authority must offer personal budgets to those eligible for social care funding in line with the Care Act. There are different ways to fund PAs. You could receive personal budgets and request your local authority to commission services on your behalf by providing you with carers from care agencies. The council manages this on your behalf. This option may be hassle-free because you don’t have to worry about recruiting your own personal assistants. Or you could receive your personal budgets in the form of direct payments that offer you greater flexibility and control in that you have more choice to recruit/select your PAs and what tasks you want them to do. But you will likely be considered as an employer having legal obligations towards your staff. This option is a more tailor-made package of support. You could be a direct payment recipient and liaise with care agencies that you select to receive care provision from them. Social services can provide you with further information and advice on the list of care agencies they recommend. The third option to fund your PA is when you are a self-funder, if you have capital above a certain threshold (£23,250).
Q I would like to know about client/user contributions to care packages. How are these calculated? What is taken into account?
A The local authority is within its legal right to charge for non-residential services and other services in the community in line with the Care Act. The council can decide not to charge you, but if they do, then they should conduct a financial assessment first to determine how much you can afford to pay. The council should leave you with a level of income to keep (minimum income guarantee to live on). Basic allowance for single person (aged 25 to 64) is £91.40 per week, disability premium £40.35 and enhanced disability is £19.70 per week. These figures are set as minimum income guarantee and councils can be more generous and allow you further allowance. The council may take your PIP daily living component/DLA care component but the mobility component is disregarded. More importantly, the council must consider your list of disability-related expenditure (DRE) while working out how much you should contribute towards the costs of your care and support. DRE refers to expenditure incurred due to your disability – reasonable expenditure for independent living, for example, above average heating costs, additional bedding costs, special dietary requirements and so forth.
Q How would you go about contesting a charge and do the council have to provide you with written calculations and explanation of their charging?
A Please remember that disability-related expenditure (DRE) can include a range of different items that differ from one individual to another depending on their disability and overall health condition. Local authorities should look at each case on its merits. You will need to provide the local authority with a list of your DRE in order to get the requested charges/contribution reduced. The council has to explain the charges, should give you written details of how much you are charged, a breakdown of how your contribution has been worked out and details of what to do if you think you cannot afford to pay the requested contribution. Also you could get in touch with an advocate to assist you to challenge the council’s decision such as Pohwer and Voiceability. You may wish to go through the complaint procedure of the local authority and get in touch with your local MP*.
Q Does anyone know how to recruit a carer by searching online – any particular sites?
A You could certainly search for PAs online by going to sites such as: www.papool.co.uk or www.padatabase.org or go to the gov.uk to advertise a job. You may also wish to advertise for PAs in local newspapers, local post offices, shops, colleges of further education, local support services, local job centres, local disabled people’s organisations or user-led organisations or contact recruitment agencies. Remember not to disclose your address when you place an advert.
Q We have a personal health budget and are looking to employ our own carers soon, do you have any advice on things to consider?
A I think you probably mean employing PAs via using the personal health budgets which offers greater flexibility and control. Employing PAs works the same way as if you have personal budgets from social services. You need to think about your role as employer but you could receive relevant support with understanding your legal obligations and managing the budget. Think about the type of tasks you want your PA to carry out as per your care and support needs. Think about the skills and qualities you want in your PA. There is more information on the Disability Rights UK website and Skills for Care who produced a toolkit for employing personal assistants: www.employingpersonalassistants.co.uk
Q Can you explain the advantages/disadvantages between employing someone and hiring someone self-employed? How does this work with the new pension scheme?
A You must first of all decide the tax employment status of your PA, it is not down to choices or preference, it depends on the relationship you have with your PA in terms of the work they do for you. You need to contact HMRC for further advice on the status of your PA. The advantages/disadvantages of having your PA as an employee is that you:
• have greater control over them
• instruct them about the work they should do, how and when to do it
• contract them for a set amount of hours
• give them a regular salary even if there is no work available
• will be considered as an employer who must comply with the employment law
• have certain legal responsibilities, such as running a payroll to ensure tax and NIC are consideredmaking sure they get their holiday entitlement and enrolling them for the new pension scheme
• should give them a contract of employment.
As for self-employed PAs, you have less control, the self-employed worker decides what work is done, when, where and how it is done. You have less paperwork to worry about as the self-employed PA often provides services to other people as well as you. They pay their own tax and are responsible for filling a tax return each year under the Self-Assessment system, they are also responsible for their own NIC. In brief they run their own business on their own account. Self-employed workers could hire someone else to do the work for them at their own expense. Remember to work out the status of your PA because even if you have got a contract with your PA indicating that they are self-employed, they could be considered by HMRC to be your employee.
Q What are you able to do when your PA is ill and cannot turn up last minute?
A In order to ensure that you are not left without relevant support when you need it most, you should in practice have back-up plans to be prepared for any emergency situations in case your PA falls sick suddenly. You should think about alternative arrangements to ensure continuity of care provision. Therefore, you should keep a diary of the contact details of those whom you made arrangements with to attend to you at short notice and who live locally such as friend, neighbour, family member or another cover PA. You could also liaise with a local care agency if they could offer emergency care provision when you need adequate support
Q If your PA is paid through a personal budget can this include the extra costs of things such as transport to medical appointments, which are essential to care?
A When you receive your personal budget, the local authority should first of all ensure that you are given funds equal to the estimate of the reasonable cost of the service to meet your eligible needs and also your legal obligations as an employer when employing PAs. You should be able to use your personal budget to meet your assessed needs flexibly and pay for all other costs associated in securing care provision. That is to say if you have been assessed as needing assistance for medical appointments or attending outdoor activities to be part of the community, then you should be able to claim for transport costs. Your PA can claim for mileage allowance (if s/he is driving you in his/her own car) on top of their wages and for journeys they do while on duty. However, your PA can’t claim for travel costs for journeys that they normally do to travel to work for you in the usual setting because they are already paid wages that cover living and travel costs to go to work.
Additionally, there is mileage allowance that PAs may be able to claim via the tax office, please follow the below links for further information:
Q When receiving direct payments, if social services want to change care company, how much control do you have if you want to keep the same PA?
A If you are a direct payments recipient, you have a say in changing care companies if you are not happy with their services; it is not down to social services. Social services can provide you with information and advice related to your care and support and could provide you with a list of care agencies to choose from if you prefer to receive services from carers affiliated to care agencies. If, however, a decision is made by yourself that you want to change the care company while keeping the same carer/PA, then either you choose to recruit your PA privately or your PA could register themselves with the second care agency of your choice.
* Please contact Muscular Dystrophy UK’s advocacy team who are able to support with contacting your MP.
Our advocacy team can also support you with your queries about hiring PAs and what your right and responsibilities are. Please call 0800 652 6352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.