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Social care, direct payments and employment matters FAQs: Coronavirus

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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F79

Due to the current situation of the pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19), DR-UK has drafted the following list of FAQ’s in line with the government advice to support those who employ their own personal assistants (PA’s)/carers and receive personal budgets/personal health budgets/direct payments from Adult Social Care. This is also useful for self-funders who pay for their own support.

Please refer to the Gov UK and NHS websites as government advice is changing regularly. Please remember that you can seek further advice from your payroll and Employer’s liability insurance provider on employment matters.

What should I do, as an employer, to minimise the risk of infection while being supported by my PA’s?

People who purchase care and support using a direct payment should ask their support workers to wash their hands more often for at least 20 seconds and assist you to do this if you need help. If they sneeze or cough, they need to cover their mouth and nose with tissues and put used tissues in the bin immediately then wash their hands afterwards.

If your personal assistants visit the pharmacy or do any essential shopping for you, then they should use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available and wash their hands as soon as they get back to your home. It is vital that your PA’s deliver safe care and support, so they need to use the usual safety apparatus (gloves etc.) when assisting you.

Request your PA’s to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. They need to dispose off any personal waste and continence pads in bin bags kept separate from other waste.

Also, people with serious underlying health conditions, who are at high risk of severe illness from Coronavirus, are advised by the government to follow ‘shielding’ measures to keep themselves safe. Shielding is a measure to protect people who are extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. However, the government changed its guidance recently on leaving your home, so you can now leave your home for medical need.

Public Health England recommends that the way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding close contact (social distancing within 2 metres).

For further information, please click on the below links to read the information on the NHS website and the guidance published by the government to protect the most vulnerable against COVID-19: -

www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-adult-social-care-guidance-to-protect-the-most-vulnerable-against-covid-19

Will I still be able to pay my PA’s or will my care support funded by my local council or NHS stop due to the Coronavirus?

No, your support will not stop. You are expected to continue receiving your usual care and support package but if your need additional support or alternative support, then you should get in touch with the council. Some councils directly contact direct payment (DP) recipients to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support. So you will still receive the relevant funds to pay your support providers or your PA’s.

What if I need care but I am not getting the support I need?

You will need to contact the council who will offer you the support you require. They may also carry out an assessment online or by phone to make sure you get the relevant social care support you require.

What guidance should I follow if I am self-funder and I pay for my own care? 

If you are self-funder and you are using your own money to employ PAs, then you are required to follow the general guidance given here. If you need further advice or support, then you should get in touch with your local authority who may be able to discuss alternative arrangements available to you.

Can I use my budget/direct payment flexibly because of the current situation?

Yes, you can use your budget flexibly to meet extra support because you are unwell, so you can use more hours. You should retain any receipts or evidence of how you used the budget flexibly, so you can then discuss with your LA or CCG following the pandemic.

You could pay for a PA/carer to get a taxi to work if they cannot or reluctant to use public transport (remember to keep receipts of taxi fares). If you have sufficient funds as contingency, you could pay extra for agency support (higher rate than what is stated in your care and support plan) to get the support you require to be independent and remain safe. If you require additional funds, you will need to speak to your local authority.

Skills for Care have produced a useful guide where it states that all flexibility should follow the relevant guidance- for example, the COVID-19: ethical framework for adult social care that can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-ethicalframework-for...

Click on the below link for further information: -

https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Documents/PB-PHB-and-DP-QA-FINAL.pdf 

Can I use my direct payment to buy personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Care workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) when performing tasks at your home especially if they are in close contact with you, particularly when supporting you with personal care. If your LA is not supplying you with PPE, then you can certainly use your direct payment to purchase PPE. Remember to keep receipts or record of it so that you attach them with your next quarterly return forms.

Am I eligible to receive PPE for my PA’s?

Yes. If you or any member of your household has a confirmed case of Coronavirus, then PPE is essential, and your PA will be eligible to receive PPE.

The latest Government advice on this is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe-plan

Where can I get personal protective equipment (PPE) from?

You can buy PPE from local pharmacies or online. The Department of Health and Social Care are working on a scheme so that people receiving social care support can access personal protective equipment (PPE) for their personal assistants. This will also enable DP employers to access PPE supplies if they are unable to purchase them via normal means. This programme will be run through local authorities. We will provide information on the programme as we get it on our website and through our newsletters. 

Is PPE effective?

In order to minimise the spread of infection, you need to make sure that PPE is used correctly. Public Health England has published a list of materials explaining how PPE can be safely used. Click on the following to read the relevant guidance on using PPE effectively:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-personal-protectiveequipment-use-for-non-aerosol-generating-procedures

What if my PA cannot find the necessary items I need when they do the shopping for me?

Some supermarket stores have dedicated time slots early in the morning for the vulnerable and the elderly, so your PA can visit the store during these timings. You could provide your PA’s with a letter if they need identification to allow them to shop on your behalf at these priority time slots. Some stores offer priority booking online delivery slots for specific groups. If you are still struggling, then you can contact your local council who should be able to assist.

Can I still pay my PA’s from my direct payment if I ask them not to work or will they be furloughed? I be eligible What on furloughing of PAs?

Following the materials published by the government, personal budgets/direct payments are classed as public funds and as long as you are still receiving those funds, then you should still continue to pay for your PA’s from these funds. The government expects that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or Furlough (lay-off) will not be generally used by public sector organisations or individual employers who employ PA’s through direct payment. The government consider PAs to be an essential key worker, and as such, furloughing of this cohort should be minimal.

If this funding continues through this period, then you should continue to pay your PA’s and your care staff in the usual fashion and not furlough them. You may wish to consider any statutory annual leave not taken so you could give some payments as annual leave and the rest as wages.

Furlough may be applicable in rare cases - for example where it is not possible for your PA to deliver support you need, and where they cannot be redeployed to assist with the coronavirus response- the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme may be appropriate. However, you will need to explain why this is the case when processing your claim for furlough.

Please refer to your payroll and the guide from Skills for Care for further information:-  

https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Documents/PB-PHB-and-DP-QA-FINAL.pdf

You can also get in touch with ACAS who have expertise on employment law.

Will my PAs get paid SSP if they self-isolate, and will I get it refunded?

If your PAs are eligible for SSP, then they will be paid from day one rather than the fourth day of their illness. Your payroll will assist you to pay SSP and you can claim it back from HMRC. This refund can only be for up to two weeks for each employee.

For information on the eligibility criteria, you can click the below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-andbusinesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronaviruscovid-19

The Department of Health and Social Care will soon publish guidance for employers of personal assistance. We will promote it when it becomes available.