Carers or personal assistants can help you live independently in your own home. If you decide to appoint one directly, using your own money or with direct payments, there’s a lot to think about.
What can a carer or personal assistant do for you?
In short, the role of a carer or personal assistant is to support you so that you can lead as independent a life 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 appoint 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.
That means that instead of having a personal assistant provided by the council, 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 do not have the same control over who is giving you your care and support as you would if you were employing your own personal assistant(s).
The 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.
And, of course, 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 directly
Clearly there are some benefits here.
Appointing 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 entails.
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 council or agency carer) you’ll need to advertise, interview and carry out checks.
You won’t be able to pay a friend or family member unless they’re a registered carer.
Recruitment agencies might charge you, but it might be worth it for the added peace of mind.
Checking someone’s 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, or Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks in Scotland.
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, including the specific tasks the personal assistant should provide, place of work, working hours, pay rate, duration of employment and holiday entitlement.
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 websiteopens in new window.
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.
Using a carer or personal assistant to manage your direct payments
In some cases, personal assistants can receive and manage direct payments from the council – usually on behalf of someone who lacks the mental capacity to do so themselves and usually because the person’s family has requested the arrangement.
Clearly there are risks and, in particular, vulnerable adults 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 client.
Ask your local authority to provide written details about their process for ensuring that a personal assistant is a ‘suitable person’.
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