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Your Guide to Direct Payments

Many people requiring care will be worrying about how to pay for it and asking if they can get financial support to help pay for homecare. The answer to this worry for many people could lie with direct payments.

Direct payments are given to people who are eligible to receive help with the costs of their own care and support.

If you’re eligible for direct payments, the council gives you the opportunity to be independent and arrange your own care services. Not only does this give you the chance to pick the services you feel are most relevant, it also enables you to make your own choices and manage your own budget.

If the care services you choose are safe, legal and meet your care needs then they don’t need to be accredited by your local council.

Once you’ve agreed with the council that you’ll receive this type of funding, they will draw up a contract which will permit you to use this money for your own care needs. They’ll also let you know what records you’ll need to keep such as, time sheets signed by personal assistants, receipts from agencies, and contracts of employment terms.

Click here to find out everything you need to know about using direct payments during the coronavirus pandemic. 

We’ve answered some of the most common questions about direct payments and paying for homecare in the guide below.

Will my local council pay for my homecare?

In order to qualify for financial help paying for homecare, you need to be deemed eligible. You’re eligible to receive direct payments from your Local Authority if you’re already being supported by social services.

Your social worker or care coordinator will be able to check if you’re eligible for direct payments and will give you advice on the next steps to take once you’re approved.

How much does it cost to pay for homecare?

The cost of homecare varies depending on how many hours you require care for and the tasks your carer or personal assistant will need to undertake. In many cases, the direct payments you qualify for may cover the whole cost of your homecare.

To receive direct payments, you must be willing to manage the funding available to you or have a trusted family member or friend willing to do it on your behalf.

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Once you’ve decided who’ll manage your payments, you (or your nominated trustee) will receive an agreement from the council stating any terms and conditions and what is required from you.

A member of the Direct Payments Service will be able to explain everything you need to know about this agreement. You (or your nominated trustee) will then be expected to sign the agreement to begin receiving payments.

If you’re over the age of 18 you may be asked to contribute towards the cost of your care, depending on your financial circumstances. The Direct Payments Service will explain all this to you throughout the process.

What can my direct payments be used for?

Direct payments can be used to pay for services and equipment which are essential to your everyday life. These requirements will be assessed by the local government and you’ll then be advised on what you can use the funding for.

If the government is satisfied that the agreed arrangements are being met, they’ll generally leave you to choose how best to spend the money on your required services.

However, if you choose to recruit someone to assist you then you’ll be responsible for the recruitment and employment process. This includes having to comply with all regulations such as payroll, income tax, national insurance, pensions and health and safety.

It’s highly recommended by the Direct Payments Service that anyone who isn’t a family member or a friend has the correct certification from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This will help safeguard yourself or an applicant under the age of 18.

You must also ensure that whoever you employ to support you has a contract of employment which outlines the hours they should work, terms and conditions and the rates of their pay. You and your employee must each keep a copy that has been signed by both parties.

Do I need Employers’ Liability insurance if I employ a carer?

When employing your own staff, it’s a legal requirement to have suitable insurance cover. This should cover you for Employers’ Liability and Public Liability. These two essential aspects of cover offer protection if your employee is injured while supporting you, or if you accidentally injure any person or their property and they try to claim compensation from you.

Many insurance policies also offer additional benefits like redundancy cover, personal accident cover and theft cover.

All information will be included within your insurance policy. You’re advised to keep the policy and telephone number in a safe place, just in case you should need to contact your insurer at any time.

What products and services are available?

If you decide to use an agency or organisation who provide a service you require, then you should ensure that their services meet the agreement set out within your care and support plan.

Once you’ve chosen a service or agency, you must keep any invoices they give you. This will be required as part of the terms and conditions of your care and support plan. Keeping proof of payment will also be required when using your personal budget to purchase any type of equipment.

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Most people choose to use direct payments because they know what they require in order to be supported. However, if you need help with where to find these services, there are a couple of options. Speak to your social worker or the Direct Payments Service as they will have access to a recommended list of approved organisations. Another option is to check your local government’s website. They usually have a free database with a list of recommended agencies and organisations which could help you find what you need.

How do I access homecare?

The Direct Payments Service is available to provide ongoing support with all aspects of employing carers and personal assistants. They can provide you with a range of information that will be useful to you before, during and after you’ve applied for direct payments. Examples of the support they provide can be anything from finding you the right insurance to providing employment templates if you should need to employ a care assistant.

You can also always rely on your social worker or care coordinator if you feel more comfortable speaking to them about your direct payments. They’ll be equipped with the same knowledge as the Direct Payments Service and if they don’t know the answer, they’ll be able to find out for you.

What if my circumstances change?

Make sure you speak with your social worker or care coordinator if your circumstances change. They’ll be able to organise the relevant assessments to increase or decrease your payments.

An example of a change in circumstance could be if your condition is improving and you don’t need to spend the full amount of funding allocated to you.

If you decide you no longer want to continue with direct payments, your local government will make relevant arrangements to meet your needs instead. Just make sure you discuss all your options in detail with your care worker or care coordinator before making any decisions.

You can apply for direct payments online via the Gov UK website.

Please note that this content was correct at time of publication (19.02.2021). From time to time, changes in regulation may impact the accuracy of the information provided.

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