FAQs – If you receive direct payments & have a PA

This is a document produced by Calderdale Council and tackles a range of questions about direct payments during the coronavirus outbreak. It includes an FAQ

Many people who receive a Direct Payment for their care and support are really worried about Coronavirus COVID-19. In this time of uncertainty, ensuring people who
need care and support still receive it is a priority. There have been assurances from national government that local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will do everything in their power to keep care going.

Below is a compilation of this information to help answer some of the most common questions local authorities etc are receiving.

For up-to-date Government information, please visit the Government Website

Clarity of Self-Isolation Periods
Some people are confused about how long they or their staff need to self-isolate if they are in a vulnerable group (such as being over 70 years old or having an underlying health condition or disability) or if they, or someone in their household, are showing symptoms. This is the Government advice:

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

For anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Will my direct payments continue to be paid?
Yes there will be no change in the amount, frequency or payment date for direct payments

Q: I am in the ‘high risk’ category and have received a letter from the NHS saying I need to stay at home for at least 12 weeks. Can my Personal Assistant (PA) still work for me?
Yes, your PA can still work for you as your care and support needs will continue. It is really important that everyone you come into contact with (your PA and anyone else who lives in your house) follows strict NHS guidelines on hygiene to reduce risk.

Q: How will my PA get paid if I am self-isolating/shielding and ask them not to come into my home?
If you feel it is safer for your PA(s) not to come to work and believe you can manage without the need for care from your PA(s) as this care is being replaced by informal care in
your family unit, then you should continue to pay your PA. If the PA works variable hours, the payroll service will calculate their average hours over the past 12 weeks to calculate
what pay they are entitled to. If your PA cannot do their usual work because you are self-isolating, consider if there are any other tasks they can do outside the home e.g. shopping, collecting medication, walking the dog.

Please note that the new ‘furloughed worker’ scheme (Job Retention Scheme) recently announced by the Government is not intended to cover job roles that are already funded
by public money (this includes a direct payments).

Q: My PA(s) can’t work. I still need care and support. What do I do?
You need to refer to your contingency plan. If that is not possible e.g. the care agency isn’t able to provide care, you will need to ask friends and family for help. If you are unable to
do this, please refer to Gateway to Care. There are lots of community and volunteer groups who may be able to help.

Q: If my PA has to self-isolate, will they get paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
Yes, if they are eligible (earn over £120/week). They will be paid from day one rather than the fourth day of their illness. This will be applied retrospectively from 13th March 2020. If they are self-isolating they should let you know in accordance with your sickness and absence procedures. You do not need evidence from your PA to be able to claim SSP for them for the first 7 days. If this continues for more than 7 days you can ask them for a NHS Isolation note if you wish to.

Q: My PA is self-isolating and I need to pay SSP, will I get it refunded?
Yes. SSP will be paid out through payroll and claimed back via HMRC. Your payroll provider will deal with this for you. This refund will be for up to two weeks per employee.

Q: If my PA has to self-isolate or is off sick due to Coronavirus and is not eligible for SSP, what do they do?
Those affected by the Coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a job centre. Please visit
https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/employment-and-benefits-support/

Q: My PA(s) is worried about continuing to work as they are concerned about the risks to themselves or their family and doesn’t want to come into work. Can they do this and what pay are they entitled to?
The government has confirmed that PA’s are classed as ‘key workers’ (someone who is employed to deliver an essential service). If your PA isn’t symptomatic and self-isolating because of this or they are not in a high risk group and being advised to shield they should be available and willing to work. You could consider allowing them to take annual or unpaid leave if you are in agreement for them to do this and have alternative arrangements in place to meet your care and support needs. If you require them to attend work but they are refusing to do so please speak to your public liability insurers for advice.

Q: My PA is in the ‘high risk’ (shielded) category and has received a letter from the NHS advising they need to stay at home for 12 weeks. Can they do this and what pay are they entitled to?
The Government expect those most at risk in the extremely vulnerable category to be shielded which means stay at home for 12 weeks from the date of the advice being given.
You should ask your PA to provide you with a copy of their NHS letter to confirm this. They will be entitled to full pay as they are willing and able to work but are being advised to stay at home. If family members are unable to provide informal care during this crisis and you need to pay another PA/agency or a family member (effectively paying twice for care), you will need to get permission to do this. Please contact Gateway to Care to make a referral on to the relevant locality team.

Q: My PA has young children. She wants to bring them to work as their school has closed. Neither the PA nor the children are displaying symptoms. Is this ok?
The short answer in normal times is no you cannot bring children in work place as your employer’s liability insurance will be invalid if there is an accident. The government has confirmed that PAs are classed as ‘key workers’ (someone who is employed to deliver an essential service and must be supported to continue to work). This means that if they are a single parent or the other parent is also a key worker, they can send their child to school or other childcare provision. 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.

Q: I don’t want my PA to come to work as a family member can care for me as I feel that is less risky. Can I pay the family member instead of the PA?
You must still pay the PA out of your direct payment in full as they are still willing and able to work but you have told them not to. If family members are unable to provide informal
care during this crisis and you need to pay your PA and a family member (effectively paying twice for care), you will need to get permission to do this. Please contact ?GWTC to put a referral onto the locality team? If the family member is currently unemployed and receiving benefits, they must declare this new employment which may affect the benefits they receive. If the family member is currently receiving Carers Allowance, they must declare that they are now a paid carer which may affect the Carers Allowance they receive.

Q. My agency/provider is unable to deliver services at the moment. Should I continue to pay them?
Please contact them to discuss this. They may be able to provide a service in a different way that would continue to meet your needs. You can still use your direct payment to make agreed payments to them so you can resume using their services when they are able to provide them again. It is important that they can continue to deliver services in the future so they may ask to you to continue to pay for their services or to pay a retainer fee. 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.

Q. I have asked my agency/provider to stop delivering services at the moment. Should I continue to pay them?
Please contact them to discuss temporarily suspending their services and if they require you to continue to pay for the suspension of their services. You can still use your direct payment to make agreed payments required so you can resume using their services when you are ready to. It is important that they can continue to deliver services in the future so
they may ask to you to continue to pay for their services or to pay a retainer fee.

Q. 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. 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. 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 and you do not have sufficient money in your direct payment to cover the cost.

Q. Does my PA need to be tested for coronavirus?
The Coronavirus National Testing Programme has now expanded capacity to test other front line workers who have to self-isolate due to having coronavirus-like symptoms or
because a member of their household has symptoms. This expansion includes all personal assistants across both health and social care, who meet the criteria set out above. More detailed information on the types of workers who may now be eligible for testing can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-get-tested