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 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 or NHS 111
Remember that if someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 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.
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
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 has school-age children and the schools have closed?
Schools shut on Friday 20 March, they will remain closed until further notice except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, as part of the country's ongoing response to coronavirus. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans - a legal document that describes a child's special educational needs and the support they need. Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.
The list of key workers in the guidance is: doctors; nurses; midwives; paramedics; social workers; care workers, and other front-line health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK's health and social care sector; and those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Schools should therefore recognise parents who are employed as PAs as key workers as they fall into the category of 'care workers and other front-line health and social care staff'. Read more about this in the guidance.
The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that PAs are included in the definition of key workers. If your PA is being challenged as to whether or not they are a key worker they should follow the steps below:
- Contact their direct payment provider (for example their local council or care commissioning group) to ask if they have a letter or something that validates the PA is a key worker and can share with their child(ren)'s school
- Provide the school with a copy of their contract of employment
If schools are struggling with understanding what a PA is, please refer them to the Skills for Care resources, where they can find a copy of being a PA guide.
If your PA has to take time off to look after children throughout the school closure period, you may be able to arrange for them to reduce their hours or change their working pattern. You may also agree for them to take holiday or unpaid leave.
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 becomes unwell at work?
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:
- If possible, get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
- Go to a room or area behind a closed door
- Avoid touching anything
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
- Use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
The unwell person should either:
- Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service 111.nhs.uk/covid-19
- Call 111, for NHS advice
- Call 999, if they're seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk
It's best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone to access these services if possible.
What happens if my PA has recently visited an affected area in Europe for example Spain, France or Italy?
Anyone returning from any affected area, for example China or Italy, should self-isolate and either:
- Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service 111.nhs.uk/covid-19
- Call 111, for NHS advice
Their employer must pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay while they’re in self-isolation and cannot work.
More about coronavirus
Direct payment officers
For general direct payment advice
Call 01432 260060 or email email@example.com
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
Call 0300 123 1100
If you have a hearing or speech impairment you can contact ACAS using Relay UK: 180010300 1231100
Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service 111.nhs.uk/covid-19