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Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Direct Payments

What are Direct Payments?

  • Direct Payments are a way of delivering community care.
  • Their purpose is to increase choice and independence for users by giving more control over support arrangements.
  • The person receiving the Direct Payment is responsible for accounting for how the money is spent.
  • A Direct Payment cannot replace: NHS Services, Housing Services (e.g. Disabled Facilities Grants) or DSS benefit payments
  • A Direct Payment cannot affect social security benefits nor be classed as taxable income.
  • Direct Payments in Surrey are subject to the same financial assessment by Surrey County Council as for community care services.
  • There is no maximum or minimum level to a Direct Payment.
  • It must be cost-effective and sufficient to pay for support of a quality acceptable to the authority.
  • A Direct Payment must be sufficient to enable the recipient to meet their legal obligations.
  • People receiving Direct Payments can choose to mix the services they buy and can opt to cease using Direct Payments at any time.

Who can receive Direct Payments?

  • Older and disabled people aged 16 and over who are assessed as needing services. All impairments are included (physical, sensory, learning, HIV and AIDS, emotional) but people subject to certain mental health after care or criminal justice legislation may not be able to receive Direct Payments.
  • A person with parental responsibility for a disabled child
  • Carers aged 16 and over who are caring for a disabled adult
  • People must be willing and able to manage Direct Payments, alone or with assistance.

What can a Direct Payment be used for?

  • It can be used to employ personal assistants or purchase support that the local authority is satisfied will meet that person’s assessed needs.
  • Unlike services arranged by the local authority, with a Direct Payment, the user is responsible for ensuring the quality of the services received.
  • A Direct Payment cannot be used to purchase permanent residential care or services provided directly by the local authority.

Keeping Financial Records

How should I pay bills from my Direct Payment Account?

All payments from your Direct Payments account should be by cheque, standing order, direct debit or electronic transfer (for example, Internet banking or telephone banking). Actual cash in the form of notes or coins should not be withdrawn from the account.

Do I need to keep receipts for any money I spend?

Yes. You should get and keep receipts for any payment you make from your Direct Payments account. You should also keep a record of all payments that you make, because you will have to account to Social Services for all your expenditure every three months. SILC can help you with this.

Prepaid account/card for direct payments

The prepaid account was introduced in Surrey in 2015 as an additional way to manage the money side of a direct payment.

Under this arrangement, a separate bank account is set up for you by Surrey County Council, who then make payments into it, usually monthly. You can then pay for the things in your support plan from this account.

If you choose to use a prepaid account for your direct payment, you won't be required to submit reconciliation forms to Surrey County Council, as they can view a record of the transactions made on the account at any time.

For more detailed information on prepaid accounts, see Fast Fact 20 "Prepaid account for direct payments"by clicking here.


Buying services from an agency or a provider

Can I buy services from any provider I choose?

You can buy the support you need from any provider who is able to meet your needs. All care agencies and providers of residential respite care must be registered with the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and should be able to produce a Certificate of Registration. SILC can help you check this and print out a copy of the provider’s latest CSCI inspection report.

How will I pay for the support I buy?

The provider you use will produce an invoice in return for which you write a check or order a transfer from you Direct Payment bank account. You need to keep a copy of all invoices you receive for your records.

Recruiting a Personal Assistant

Can I get help with recruitment?

SILC can give you advice and assistance with recruitment, including the drafting and placement of advertisements and the arrangement of interviews.

Who pays for the recruitment advertisement?

The reasonable cost of advertising is covered by your Direct Payments in the form of an initial set up payment.

Do I have to have an Equal Opportunities policy?

Although you do not have to have an Equal Opportunities policy you must not (by law) discriminate on the grounds of race, sex, disability, age, religious belief or sexual orientation.

Do I need to take up references for someone I wish to employ?

Before employing anybody, you should obtain references from two people who know the applicant well. SILC can help with this.

How can I check if my the person I want to recruit has a criminal record?

SILC can help you obtain a criminal record bureau (CRB) check on any prospective employee.

Employing a Personal Assistant

Can I employ someone from outside the UK?

You can employ someone from any country in the ‘European Economic Area’ without the need for a work permit but you must ensure that anyone you employ is legally entitled to work in the United Kingdom. You should ask to see relevant documentation and keep copies of it. SILC can help you with this.

Can I employ my partner or one of my relatives?

You can not employ any close relative or partner who lives with you without prior permission from Social Services, and then only in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances are only usually agreed where there is no other way of providing the required care.

When and how should I offer someone a job?

Any offer of employment should be made in writing and subject to satisfactory references. SILC can help with drafting an offer letter.

Can I employ someone for a trial period to see how they get on?

It’s a good idea to include a probation period in any offer of employment. We recommend a trial period of 13 weeks.

Do I need to provide a job description?

Yes. It’s best to draw up the job description before you offer someone the job – we can help you with this

Is there anything else I should give my new recruit?

No later than eight weeks after starting work, the new recruit is entitled to receive a statement of main employment particulars. SILC can help you with this.

Is there a limit on the number of hours I can ask my Personal Assistant to work?

Yes. You cannot ask someone to work more than the national working time regulations limit of 48 hours per week, unless they agree in writing to do so. SILC can give you advice about this.

How much should I pay my Personal Assistant?

You must pay at least the national minimum wage per hour, before tax. The pay rates that SILC recommends are much higher than this and will be covered by your Direct Payments for the number of hours specified. SILC can give you advice about this.

Do I need to take out any insurance before employing someone?

You need to take out employers' liability insurance. The cost of an appropriate policy is included in your Direct Payment and application forms are available from SILC.

Do I have to pay my Personal Assistants holiday pay?

All employees are entitled to the pro rata equivalent of 24 days paid holiday a year. The cost of holiday pay, and of employing another PA to cover for holidays, is included in your Direct Payment. SILC can help you to calculate how much holiday each of your employees is entitled to.

Do I have to pay my Personal Assistant when they are sick or on maternity leave?

Your employees may be entitled to statutory sick pay or statutory maternity pay in the relevant circumstances. Contact SILC for advice before you make any payment.

What happens when I need to pay for cover for my Personal Assistant?

An amount of money for contingency cover is included in your Direct Payment.

What happens if my Personal Assistant becomes pregnant?

Pregnant employees have special legal rights. You cannot refuse someone a job or dismiss her just because she is pregnant. If one of your employees is or becomes pregnant, contact SILC for advice.

What happens if my Personal Assistant has a disability or becomes disabled?

Disabled employees have special rights. As you probably know, the term "disabled" covers a wide variety of physical and mental impairments. If you have reason to believe that one of your employees is or has become disabled, you should contact SILC for advice.

What happens if I want or need to sack a worker?

All employees have legal rights relating to grievance and disciplinary procedures (including dismissal and redundancy procedures). If you fail to follow the correct procedure you could be taken to an employment tribunal and have to pay compensation. If you are faced with a potential grievance, disciplinary or redundancy situation you should contact SILC for advice before taking any action.

What do I have to do about Health and Safety?

You have all the legal obligations of any employer, except that you are not strictly bound by the Health and Safety at Work Act when employing someone in your own home, however, you remain bound by a general duty of care and should take our advice on this.

Can my Personal Assistant be self employed?

It is extremely unlikely that the Inland Revenue will regard people working regular hours for you as being self-employed. Any person wishing to be regarded as self-employed should be asked to produce written authority from the Inland Revenue that it is prepared to regard them as self-employed. Otherwise they must be treated as being directly employed by you.

Paying your Personal Assistant

Can I pay in cash?

No. You should not pay any worker in cash and it is against Surrey County Council policy for you to do so. If this presents any problems, contact SILC for advice.

Should my Personal Assistant fill in time sheets?

Yes. Ask your Personal Assistant to complete a time sheet for all the hours they work (preferably on a weekly basis) and get them to sign it. You should keep a copy of these so that you can avoid disputes about hours worked.

Do I have to sort out Income Tax and National Insurance?

You are liable to the Inland Revenue for deductions of any income tax and employee national insurance and for any employers national insurance contributions due. These deductions need to be held back from gross pay and paid to the Inland Revenue as required on a quarterly basis. The cost of tax and National Insurance contributions are included in your Direct Payments and SILC can help you budget to cover these.

Can I use a payroll service to pay my workers?

Yes. SILC operates a payroll administration service, the cost of which can be met by your Direct Payment. The payroll service will calculate the necessary deductions and print a pay slip for you to give to your employees as is legally required. You must provide details of hours worked and pay rates, and of the employee's tax details by way of a P 45 or a P46. Contact us for details.

Can I do my own payroll?

Yes. You can operate your own payroll and we’ll happily give you details.

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