Questions about direct payments during the coronavirus outbreak

Will my direct payments continue to be paid?

Yes there will be no change in the amount, frequency or payment date for direct payments.

Can I change the arrangements for the care and support I pay for with my direct payments?

Yes, you can change the type of support and/or services you receive as long as you pay attention to any legal issues that might arise, say from making personal assistants redundant or breaking an agreement with a provider. Remember, this is your personal budget and you can spend the money flexibly. You do not need permission to do something different to what was first agreed - as long as it is legal and meets your assessed needs.

I use a care agency to provide services. What happens if the service is disrupted?

You should discuss with your care agency and find alternative, different ways of arranging services that would continue to meet your needs. For example, reducing the number of home visits or changing the times of the visits. It's important to be as flexible as possible - as long as you stay safe.

I use direct payments to access support in the community from a local organisation. What happens if the activities have to stop?

You should discuss with the provider the possibility of finding different and creative ways for them to support you while adhering to government guidance for social distancing and staying safe at home.

Always keep in regular touch with your provider, even if they have had to stop delivering activities, as the position may change and new ideas will emerge.

I normally buy a service with my direct payment from a provider which is shutting its doors to support social distancing or is not able to provide my care due to staff sickness. They have asked if they can invoice me even though I won't receive a service from them. What should I do?

Your direct payment is for you to decide how to spend to meet your eligible needs. If your usual provider isn't able to provide a service to you, then you may need to buy a different service (we call this replacement care).

You may choose to continue to pay any bills from your usual provider, especially if they have supported you a long time and have said they will keep in touch with you. If you do this please let us know, so we can make sure you have enough in your direct payment budget to cover your costs.

I have to make a contribution towards the cost of my direct payment. If I am not using my direct payment to buy some services will I still have to pay my contribution?

The contribution you are asked to pay is based on how much you can afford to contribute towards all of your adult social care needs. So if you continue to receive some services but not others, for example your personal care at home continues, but you stop attending community activities, you will still have to contribute, but if your direct payment is only for attending community activities and these have all stopped you do not need to pay your contribution. You should contact us if you plan to stop paying your contribution, but intend to continue paying the invoices for community activities as you may not have sufficient money in your direct payment to cover the cost.

I use direct payments to employ a personal assistant (PA). What happens if my PA needs to self-isolate? Will they be paid and how much do I pay them?

All PAs must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) they are entitled to from day one if they need to self-isolate, as a result of:

  • Having coronavirus
  • Having signs of coronavirus
  • Coming into close contact with anybody who has coronavirus symptoms
  • Having been told to self-isolate by a doctor, NHS 111 or the Test and Trace service

Remember that if someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 10 days.

If a PA cannot work, for whatever reason, they must tell you as soon as possible giving a clear reason and how long they're likely to be off work.

You will need to be flexible if you require evidence from your PA. For example, someone might not be able to provide a sick note (fit note) if they've been told to self-isolate for more than seven days.

More information about statutory sick pay for those affected by coronavirus - GOV.UK

Test and Trace support payment

In some circumstances if your PA is required by law to self-isolate from 28 September they may be supported by a Test and Trace payment of £500.

From 28 September 2020 it is now unlawful to allow a PA to attend work when it is known that the worker has tested positive or that they live with someone who has.

Allowing or forcing a worker to continue working when you know they should be self-isolating is an offence punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £1,000. The fine may increase up to £10,000 for repeat offenders.

Employed PAs are now under a legal obligation to self-isolate where they have been informed they have a positive case of coronavirus or they live (or have been in close contact with someone) who has. They are also legally required to notify you that this is the case. Failure to do so is an offence punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £50. 

This rule applies to your own employees, casual workers and agency workers who you may have appointed. 

Statutory Sick Pay continues to apply for employees who are self-isolating due to a positive test or because they live with someone who has tested positive (or been in close contact with someone who has).  

I employ a PA. What happens if I choose to go into self-isolation? Will my PA be paid?

An employer may decide to go into self-isolation to protect themselves or a vulnerable family member. The PA will still be paid their contracted hours as they are remaining in employment. If the PA works variable hours, the payroll service will calculate their average hours over the past 12 weeks to calculate payments.

Consideration should be given to alternative tasks that the PA can undertake, for example, going shopping, posting mail and they should keep in regular contact by phone, text, or email. It is important to make sure that PAs can keep in touch with each other and communicate with the employer. A good idea is to set up a WhatsApp Group.

If it is possible for your PA to provide some of your support while working at home this should be agreed by you, if appropriate and the PA will get their usual pay.

A practical, alternative is for PAs to take some annual leave from their allowance. Employers have the right to tell PAs when to take annual leave if they need to, providing reasonable notice is given. This could affect holiday PAs have already booked or planned. So employers should:

  • Explain clearly why they need the PA to take the annual leave. This will hopefully be clear if the employer needs to self-isolate or there is a case of coronavirus in the household
  • Try and resolve anyone's worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

What happens if my PA needs time off work to look after a family member who is self-isolating or has coronavirus?

PAs are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a dependent) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example:

  • If they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
  • To help their child or another dependent if they're sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
  • If your PA is unable to work because they need to care for a child who has been asked to stay at home by their school, they are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (unless it is the child who has tested positive)

There's no statutory requirement to pay for this time off, but there is provision to pay for special leave. The limit for this is normally five days but this has been relaxed for Covid-19 cases. Find out more about time off for dependents.

What happens if my PA does not want to go to work?

Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're afraid of catching coronavirus. An employer should listen to any concerns the PA may have. If there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff, for example, if possible, the offer of flexible working.

If a PA still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this. Find out more about absence from work from the ACAS website.

What happens if my PA is self-isolating because they are returning from a country where restrictions apply?

PAs returning to the UK from certain countries who are required to quarantine for 10 days do not qualify for SSP. 

More about coronavirus

Contact details

Direct payment officers

For general direct payment advice

Call 01432 260060 or email directpaymentadvice@herefordshire.gov.uk

Transactional support team

For payment queries

Call 01432 383733 or email DirectPaymentTeam@hoopleltd.co.uk

HM Revenues and Customs

Call 0845 143 143
New employers helpline 0845 607 0143
www.hmrc.gov.uk

ACAS

Call 0300 123 1100
www.acas.org.uk

If you have a hearing or speech impairment you can contact ACAS using Relay UK: 180010300 1231100

NHS

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service 111.nhs.uk/covid-19

Call 111