Direct payments are funds provided by a local council directly to those individuals who have been assessed as having a social care need and would like to arrange and manage payment for their own care and support services.
Individuals have the choice to request for a direct payment instead of having a care service arranged by their local council.
Managing direct funds allows for flexibility. Some individuals employ a carer through an agency, others will directly employ their own staff, or pay members of their own family to care for them.
A direct payment can be administered by someone else on an individual’s behalf if the need arises.
Frequently asked questions
What are Direct Payments?
Direct Payments fund community care. The purpose is to increase choice and independence by giving more control over support arrangements. There is no maximum or minimum level to a Direct Payment although care must be cost-effective and sufficient to pay for support of a quality level acceptable to the local authority.
The person receiving the Direct Payment is responsible for accounting for how the money is spent. Individuals must be willing and able to manage Direct Payments alone or with assistance. A Direct Payment must be sufficient to enable the recipient to meet their legal obligations. Those receiving Direct Payments can opt to cease using Direct Payments at any time.
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 Sutton are subject to the same financial assessment by the London Borough of Sutton as for community care services.
Who can receive Direct Payments?
- The elderly
- Individuals over the age of 16 with a disability
- A person with parental responsibility for a disabled child
- Carers aged 16 and over who are caring for a disabled adult
All impairments are included (physical, sensory, learning, HIV and AIDS, emotional) but people subject to certain mental health aftercare or criminal justice legislation may not be able to receive Direct Payments.
What can a Direct Payment be used for?
- For the employment of personal assistants or purchasing support that is approved by the local authority
- Unlike services arranged by the local authority, the user is responsible for ensuring the quality of the services received
- It cannot be used to purchase permanent residential care or services provided directly by the local authority
How should I pay bills from my Direct Payment Account?
All payments from your Direct Payments account should be either a cheque, standing order, direct debit or electronic transfer (for example, Internet banking or telephone banking). You should not withdraw cash in the form of notes or coins.
Do I need to keep receipts for any money I spend?
Yes, because you will have to account to Social Services for all your expenditure every six months. Encompass can help you with this.
What is the prepaid account for direct payments?
A separate bank account is set up for you by Encompass. The London Borough of Sutton make payments into it, usually every four weeks. 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 the London Borough of Sutton, as they can view a record of the transactions made on the account at any time.
What is a Managed Account?
Encompass owns a managed bank account called Financial Administration Service (FAS). Your Direct Payment is paid into our account every four weeks. Invoices are then paid from this account that match the service delivered.
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 Care Quality Commission (CQC) and must produce a Certificate of Registration.
How will I pay for the support I buy?
Your care provider will produce an invoice and you will write a cheque or transfer funds from your Direct Payment prepaid account / bank account / managed account to their 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?
Encompass provides 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. This is known as an initial set up payment.
Do I need to obtain references for someone I wish to employ?
Before employing anybody, you should obtain references from two people who know the applicant well. Encompass can help with this.
How can I check if the person I want to recruit has a criminal record?
Encompass can help you obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check on any prospective employee.
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. Encompass 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 the job?
Any offer of employment should be made in writing and subject to satisfactory references. Encompass 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 to my career once they are employed?
No later than eight weeks after starting work, the carer is entitled to receive a statement of main employment particulars. We 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. We can help you with this.
How much should I pay my carer?
You must pay at least the national minimum wage per hour, before tax. The pay rates that Encompass recommends are higher than this and will be covered by your Direct Payments for the number of hours specified.
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 us.
Do I have to pay my carer holiday pay?
All employees are entitled to the pro rata equivalent of 20 days paid holiday a year. The cost of holiday pay, and of employing another assistant to cover holidays is included in your Direct Payment. We can help you to calculate how much holiday each of your employees is entitled to.
What happens if my carer falls pregnant?
Pregnant employees have special legal rights. You cannot refuse someone a job or dismiss them just because they are pregnant. If one of your employees is, or becomes pregnant, contact us for advice.
Do I have to pay my carer 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. We can help you with this.
What happens when I need to pay for cover for my carer
An amount of money for contingency cover should be included in your Direct Payment.
What happens if I want or need to dismiss 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 us 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 carer 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 carer
Can I pay them in cash?
No. You should not pay any worker in cash and it is against the London Borough of Sutton’s policy for you to do so. If this presents any problems, contact us for advice.
Should my carer fill in timesheets?
Yes. Ask your carer to complete a timesheet 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 we can help you budget to cover these.
Can I use a payroll service to pay my carer?
Yes. The payroll service will calculate the necessary deductions and print a payslip 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 P45 or a P46.
Can I do my own payroll?
Yes. You can operate your own payroll.