Carers or personal assistants can help you live independently at home. If you employ one - using your own money or with direct payments - there’s a lot to consider.
What can a carer or personal assistant do for me?
A carer or personal assistant is to support you so that you can live as independently as possible in your own home.
They might work for only a few hours a week, or several hours each day (or night) and help with a range of tasks such as:
- Preparing meals.
- Help with medication.
- Driving or helping you get around.
- Supporting family carers when they need a break.
- Personal care, such as washing, dressing and using the toilet.
Using direct payments to employ a personal assistant
Did you know?
It’s estimated that there will be more than a million personal assistants working in the UK by 2025.
If you’re eligible for funding for social care at home, you can choose to get the amount of money you are assessed as needing for your care paid straight into your bank account.
This means that instead of your local authority providing you with a personal assistant, you can employ them directly or appoint a home care agency to do it for you.
Using a home care agency
For many people, using a home care agency is a lot less hassle. But you need to be aware of some important issues:
- You don’t have the same control over who is giving you your care as you would if you were employing your own personal assistant(s).
- Some home care companies aren’t regulated. For example, with introductory-type services, when a carer has been allocated, the person needing care and their family are responsible for managing them. If you want to avoid this type of company, ask them to send you a copy of their Care Quality Commission (CQC) report. If they can’t, then it’s a sign that they may be an unregulated introductory agency.
A regulated agency will handle all payments, taxes and insurance, as well as doing police checks and following up references.
However, you might not always have the same person visiting your home.
Plus, it costs more – allow an extra £5 to £10 per hour, depending on your care needs and where you live.
To find an home care agency, visit the UK Home Care Association (UKHCA) website.
Employing a personal assistant
Clearly there are some benefits here.
Employing someone yourself gives you more choice and control over who cares for you and what tasks they do.
But it also immediately turns you into an employer, with all the legal, financial and practical issues that involves.
So before going down this road, there’s a lot you’ll need to think about.
Recruiting a carer or personal assistant
Unless there’s someone you know (perhaps your local authority or agency carer) you’ll need to advertise, interview and carry out checks.
You might want to employ someone you know to provide the care, such as a family member or friend. However, if you’re eligible for local authority funding and using direct payments to employ a care worker there are rules around employing family members. These rules vary depending on whether you’re in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Check the rules on employing someone you know on the Carers UK website.
Recruitment agencies might charge you, but it might be worth it for the added peace of mind.
Checking someone has a right to work in the UK
As an employer, you must make sure that any prospective worker is eligible to work in the UK before you employ them.
Ask to check people’s passports or other ID to prove they’re from the European Economic Area or have a visa to work here.
Remember to keep a copy of the paperwork.
For more information on the right to work in the UK, visit the Home Office website.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously CRB checks)
Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks are now called Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. In Scotland, these are called Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks.
You must get a copy of the DBS check for anyone you’re looking to employ before you interview them or let them into your home.
Drawing up an employment contract for a carer or personal assistant
You’ll need to provide a written statement of employment. This should include the specific tasks the personal assistant is expected to do, place of work, working hours, pay rate, duration of employment and holiday entitlement.
Find out more on the acas website.
Pay and tax
You must pay your personal assistant at least the minimum wage – realistically, you’re talking about £10 an hour, or closer to £12 if your care needs are more complex.
You might also be responsible for deducting tax and National Insurance from their wages and have to pay the employer’s National Insurance contribution.
Find out more about tax and National Insurance when employing people in your home on the HM Revenue & Customs website.
Time off, sick pay and holiday pay
Not only will you have to pay these, you’ll also need to find replacement cover.
Your carer or personal assistant has an entitlement to:
- Rest breaks
- Holiday pay
- Sick pay (in most cases)
- A maximum number of working hours in any week
As an employer, you must take out Employer’s Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance.
Your direct payments should be able to help towards the cost of this. But it will depend on your local authority.
Find out more on The Pensions Regulator websiteopens in new window.
Using a carer or personal assistant to manage your direct payments
In some cases, you can opt for your personal assistant or carer to receive and manage the direct payments from the local authority on your behalf. This is usually set up when someone lacks the mental capacity to do it themselves and usually when the person’s family has asked for the arrangement.
There are risks with this type of arrangement. And vulnerable adults, in particular, must be protected from fraud.
Therefore, before agreeing to such an arrangement, the local authority must be satisfied that the personal assistant or carer is a ‘suitable person’ and will act in the best interests of the person they are caring for.
Ask your local authority to provide written details about their process for ensuring that a personal assistant is considered to be a ‘suitable person’.
Did you find this guide helpful?
Thank you for your feedback