Direct payments and impact of the coronavirus
The Government has published and is continually updating the following guidance:
An easy read version is now available: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for people receiving direct payments (easy read).
Think local act personal: Covid-19 information for adult social care
Guidance for people who receive direct payments
The key messages in the government’s direct payment guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic are:
- Your direct payments will continue as before. For those who receive a direct payment, funding will still be paid into accounts on the normal standard pay dates
- Continue to pay your personal contribution into your direct payment
- The council will communicate with you to ensure you stay safe.
- The government expects councils and direct payment holders to be flexible in how direct payments are used to manage any issues arising from Covid-19. You have the flexibility to use your payment in a way that ensures you safely receive the care and support you require. This could mean a variation in your agreed care and support plan which does not require immediate sign-off from the council on the basis that it’s the right thing to do so you stay safe and receive the care and support you need during this time. Receipts should be kept, and let us know how you are using the direct payment at this time.
- All personal care assistants are considered key workers, both now and in the future. Under the current national lockdown, only children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people should attend school or college. This is because rates of infection have increased rapidly both nationally and locally, so schools have been asked to limit the numbers of students who are in school to the absolute essential.
The government has updated its guidance about critical worker and vulnerable children and states that: Children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required, but parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can.
- This means they’re eligible for things like free winter flu vaccinations, PPE and the Covid vaccination.
- Everybody with symptoms – including PAs, unpaid carers and yourself – is eligible for testing. This includes home tests, delivered to your door if that is what you would like. In some cases people without Covid-19 symptoms will also be tested, to inform any clinical diagnosis. PAs are also able to get rapid Covid testing if they don’t have symptoms.
- Accessing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for people who support you is essential. The council supplies PPE free of charge.
Day service providers
Day service providers should continue to be paid during the coronavirus situation whether you are receiving services or not. We had advised to continuing paying till the end of September, then the end of November, but please continue to pay for your place until we tell you otherwise.
If you aren’t receiving services at the moment, contact your provider to discuss your possible return to the service. You may also decide that you no longer need this service, possibly because you are meeting your outcomes in a different way, or because of the risks of Covid-19, you don’t feel comfortable going out and about.
If this is the case you should cancel your support with the provider. However, be aware that if you wanted to start to have support from them in the future, they may not have the staff available to help you.
If you are cancelling support could you also let the council know please, so that we can have a conversation with you about how you are managing and if you are getting the help you need. We may also need to cancel or change the amount of your direct payment to take account of this. If you are an adult contact us on 01454 868007. For parents of disabled children please contact your social worker.
Community based support providers
The council advised to continue to pay providers for support at home until the end of August, whether you were receiving support or not. From the beginning of September 2020, please only pay for the care and support received. This also applies to the second and third national lockdown.
Council actions regarding direct payments
We paid providers of personal care an extra 10% from April to June and this happened separately from your direct payment.
If you employ a PA there is no automatic additional funding to direct payments.
If you are concerned about additional costs you may have at the moment, contact us to discuss this.
You may employ PAs, or use homecare agency services, but in either case you should review your current arrangements and consider what would happen if your provider or PA was not able to provide support due to illness, or because they have been told to self-isolate.
The government has provided a contingency plan that you can use. Check GOV.UK guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for people receiving direct payments.
If you can find an agency to provide cover, your contingency balance can be used to fund the agency cost. Ensure you are spending in line with the hours in your care and support plan, or EHCP plan for children.
Consider whether you or your child can manage without a PA or agency at this time to enable them to reduce social contact. However, if the care and support provided is essential, contingency plans should be put place for who else you can call on to meet your or your child’s care and support needs, such as sourcing care from an alternative agency or PA, friends or family, or re-employing previous PAs already trained to support you.
PAs who are currently not working as they have been asked not to may be able to work for you if their contract allows this. You would need to think about:
- the PA will only be available for a limited period, before needing to return to their original employer. New arrangements will therefore need to be put in place once the employee returns to their previous employer
- if the new employee is carrying out work usually provided by another PA, there must be work for them to return to, as per their contracted hours
- speak to the council about having enough funding to pay for replacement support from the PA.
The government guidance has further information and guidance on employing family members.
You may also use funds in a flexible way for other things that meet your needs. If you would like to use your direct payments to purchase alternative equipment or support (from that already agreed within your care and support plan) contact us to discuss this.
If you have tried make your contingency arrangements work but you are still not able to meet your or your child’s needs, contact the relevant social work team:
- phone 01454 868007 for adults
- for parents of disabled children please contact your social worker
Support with planning your care
If you have a direct payment support provider they can help you with thinking through your options and planning your care and support.
Our list of local community groups who are offering a range of support may also be useful. Any support you put in place has to meet the outcomes from your care and support plan. If you are in doubt as to whether what you are planning is acceptable under your care and support plan, speak with a social worker.
Keeping your care and support details up to date
Ensure that details about how you like your care and support to be delivered are up to date with key information that can be shared with care staff who may not be familiar to you, including what you consider to be essential. Where possible, if there are any regular or reoccurring needs that are time and day-specific include these (for example treatment sessions, attending work). Ensure that other details, such as critical telephone numbers, are up to date and available to all care staff who support you.
If you are admitted to hospital
If you are admitted to hospital your direct payment will continue in line with normal practice, however this will be dependent on your condition and circumstances, length of stay, and whether your needs have changed and are no longer as set out in the care and support plan.
We understand that you may prefer some personal care tasks to be undertaken by your PA rather than hospital staff, which your direct payment can usually allow. If you will shortly be, or have been, admitted to hospital, you should contact the ward or department you have been admitted to, to talk about your preferences and agree arrangements.
If your PA is able to support you in hospital, they will be subject to infection control measures and guidance set by government.
What to do if you are unwell
If you or family members are unwell with Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19, follow the guidance on the NHS coronavirus advice website.
Think about those areas of care that are essential and that you need the PA to continue to support you with. Ensure personal protective equipment is worn.
If you are well but a family member in the household has suspected or confirmed Covid-19, you and your PA should remain at a safe protected distance. You can find more information on the NHS website for self–isolation if you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms.
Guidance when employing a personal assistant (PA)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for personal assistants (PAs)
You can find the latest guidance for personal protective equipment on the GOV.UK website: Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).
Care providers are obliged to follow government guidance on PPE and are responsible for ensuring that their staff are wearing the correct PPE and are using it appropriately.
As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure your PAs are able to work in a safe environment which includes ensuring appropriate PPE is available. As employees, your PAs also have a duty to take care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work. They must co-operate with you and the other PAs to help everyone meet their legal obligations.
When you order the PPE, there is information regarding what PPE is required currently for PAs supporting you at home and in the community.
Wearing PPE, especially face masks and visors, for long periods of time can be uncomfortable, particularly in hot homes. There are things you can do to support your PAs in doing this. For example:
- ensuring rooms are well ventilated, with open windows
- encouraging your PAs to drink water regularly
- allowing your PAs to take unscheduled breaks and allowing more time for tasks to be completed
- checking in with your PAs about their comfort and wellbeing
Impact on communication when wearing PPE
The use of PPE can have a significant impact on communication and relationships, particularly for children and young people, people with a learning disability and/or who are autistic, have mental health problems, dementia and hearing loss. Not being able to see someone’s facial expression or relying on lip reading can make conversations more difficult than they normally are.
Here are some useful tips for PAs to help manage these situations:
- greet people without a mask through a window before entering their home
- introduce yourself so the person knows who you are
- explain why you are wearing a mask – to keep them, you and others safe
- wear a picture badge of your face
- face the person you are speaking to
- speak clearly and naturally
- use body language to support your speech – moving shoulders, eyebrows, and gesturing
- use ClearMasks™ where available and appropriate
Public Health England guidance states that staff could choose not to wear a mask when supporting a person with learning disabilities, if it’s decided following a risk assessment that it would do more harm than good. These principles can also be applied to caring for people with other conditions.
For information on cleaning, the disposal of waste and what to do with laundry, read the Stay at home: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (Covid-19) infection on the GOV.UK website.
Employers’ liability insurance ELI
If you employ PAs, we highly recommended that you get advice from your Employers’ liability insurance provider on any questions you have about your specific circumstances or policy. Your direct payments support provider may also be able to help. Main providers of Employer’s liability insurance for the direct payment and social care PA market are:
If your PA is unwell
Testing for PAs
For information on testing visit the GOV.UK website: Coronavirus (Covid-19): getting tested.
If your PA has Covid-19 symptoms but does not want to get tested the PA should follow government advice and self-isolate. Under no circumstance should they continue to provide you with care and support until after the necessary quarantine period.
There are no plans to fund transport costs for drive through tests. If your PA is not able to travel to get a test, home tests delivered to the PA’s door are now available.
Social care staff and PAs have acted responsibly during the crisis and have often gone above and beyond to make sure people are safe. However, if your PA has suspected coronavirus and refuses to isolate you should speak to the council. You may also speak to your insurance company, who have legal advisers who can support you to resolve these issues. ACAS also have a national helpline, who will respond and advise on issues like this. They can be contacted on 0300 123 1100.
If your PA is not practising social distancing in their personal life, you should discuss this with your PA, keep a record of your discussion and what has been agreed between you both. If your PA continues to refuse to practise social distancing in line with government advice, it might be appropriate to take disciplinary action.
Support is also available to you from your LA, CCG or support organisation, to help you decide on the best course of action based on the circumstances.
Rapid Covid-19 test
Rapid Covid tests (also called lateral flow tests) are available for PAs and other social care workers. They are for people who don’t have Covid symptoms and can provide you with additional reassurance about people coming into the home. The testing centres at Bradley Stoke and Kingswood have capacity and you can book an appointment quickly and easily at short notice. Tests are discretionary, PAs can have up to two tests a week as needed.
Weekly Covid-19 PCR home testing for Personal Assistants (PAs)
From 17 February 2021 Personal Assistants working for adults with direct payments are now eligible to receive weekly PCR home testing. This is for PAs who provide care and support to adults where they come within 2 metres of the person they care for. This care could include support in the home, or to go out into the community.
Every 7 days a personal assistant should take a test, register it online, and return it by post. Personal assistants will receive their results in 48 hours by email and text message (SMS).
PAs will be able to order a month’s supply of test PCR kits every 28 days, delivered to their home address, enabling them to conduct weekly coronavirus testing at home.
Further details are available on GOV.UK Guidance:Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for personal assistants
Antibody testing for Personal Assistants
Antibody Testing for Covid-19 is now available for personal assistants in South Gloucestershire. The antibody test identifies if a patient has had Covid in the past and has antibodies. You can find more information on the BrisDoc website.
Flu Jabs for PAs
As keyworkers, PAs are entitled to a free flu jab at a GP practice or pharmacy. We have sent a letter to all direct payment recipients that can be completed to show their PA is a key worker and is eligible for the flu jab. If you need a copy of this letter contact:
- or call 01454 865949
Covid 19 Vaccinations for PAs
As critical care staff, personal assistants are eligible for the Covid 19 vaccination whether they are employed by you or self employed. If your PA hasn’t yet received information about the vaccination, contact:
Phone: 01454 865949.
Changes to your PA care
Furlough may be a possibility for your PA, and we recommend you discuss this with your payroll provider. We would also ask you to consider the following, our guidance on these issues changed on 4 January 2021:
- Assuming your PAs are fit and willing to attend work, they should carry on fulfilling their duties. It is essential that you and they take very seriously any new rules on health and safety procedures you implement based on government guidance. It is not just for their own protection but also to prevent the spread of infection to other people in the household, fellow colleagues, and the public at large when leaving your home.
- If the PA does not want to come to work, and neither of you are showing any symptoms (or there is no identified high risk), then the PA is choosing not to work. Speak with your PA about their concerns and explain to them what has been put in place to support them to support you safely. You may want to discuss tasks that can be undertaken, where social distancing is possible. You can encourage your PA to take annual leave where possible, otherwise this will be an unauthorised absence for which no pay will be given. You can seek advice from the direct payment support provider.
There are some tasks where this will not be possible, for example if your PA is providing personal care. In these circumstances, it is important that your PA wears the required PPE and follows the additional infection control procedures that are in place. Doing this can help to reduce fears.
- Statutory sick pay has been available from the first day off if they or anyone in their household are self-isolating with or without symptoms, They can check if they are eligible the GOV.UK website for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). From 4 January 2021 if your PA is off sick with Covid, please pay them their salary rather than statutory sick pay. If your PA is off sick for another reason, statutory sick pay would apply if they are eligible for this.
- If your PA has been told to self isolate by Track and Trace or because a family member has Covid, from 4 January please pay your PA during the time they are self isolating.
- If a PA has to stay home to care for children because of an outbreak at school, our advice has been that PA would take parental or carers leave, or paid or unpaid leave.
- From 4 January, your personal assistants are classed as critical care workers and schools are generally remaining open for children of critical care workers. We would ask if children are not in school that PAs make every effort to organise childcare and continue with their working hours, and your flexibility with this would be appreciated. If your PA cannot find a solution to their childcare issues and they have to stay home to care for their children, they should be paid their salary while away from work.
- When schools re-open, if a child is sent home because a child in their bubble has Covid, and your PA has to stay home to care for their child, please pay them their salary during this time.
- If you are asking your PAs to not visit you during lockdown to reduce the risk of infection could you please contact the council, so that we can discuss how you will be supported during this time. If you have asked your PA to not to come work to reduce the risk of infection please continue to pay the PA. You may also wish to speak to your payroll provider about the possibility of furloughing your staff member through the government scheme.
- Replacement care – If you are paying for replacement care as your PA is not working, please use your contingency fund to do this. However if you are running low with funding, please contact the council.
- If the PA is on a zero-hour contract seek advice from your insurance provider, as they may be entitled to payment based on a preceding period.
Shielding or people who are extremely clinical vulnerable
The first period of shielding ended on 1 August 2020. We advised that PAs who were shielding and unable to work should be paid until this date. PAs were able to return to Covid-secure workplaces after this date. If your PA has concerns, they can get advice on their specific situation and employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline, 0300 123 1100.
The second period of shielding advice was in November 2020, when clinically extremely vulnerable people were told not to go to work. We advised that if you or your child need to receive care in person, you can continue to receive it and that if you are asking your personal assistants (PAs) or a care and support provider to not visit you during lockdown to reduce the risk of infection, could you please contact the council, so that we can discuss how you will be supported during this time. We asked you to continue to pay PAs if you have asked them not to work to reduce the risk of infection to you.
Personal Assistants who are clinically extremely vulnerable were not able to work from home so would be unable to work.
We asked you to continue to pay your PAs their standard hours while this advice is in place, and to contact us about paying for replacement care or any concerns you had. We also asked you to pay PAs f your PA is caring for an extremely vulnerable person in their home/support bubble, and is not working during this period to protect their family member.
This government guidance came to an end of 2 December and the government is no longer advising people to stay away from work. It does continue to advise keeping the number of social interactions low and to try to reduce the amount of time in settings where social distancing is difficult.
Personal assistants in the extremely clinically vulnerable category should be able to return to work from 2 December, with the correct PPE in place, and in discussion with you to ensure risks to them can be reduced.
As of 4 January 2021 personal assistants who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been advised to not go to work during the national lockdown. Please continue to pay personal assistants who have had the letter or text from the NHS advising them not to work.
The main points to consider in terms of making sure your Personal Assistants working environment (your home, out in the community) is Covid secure so that they can return to work are:
- complete risk assessments
- use PPE
- maintain social distancing where possible (limiting physical contact where possible)
- good hygiene practices
- good communication with PA
- avoid public transport where possible
- make adjustments to your PAs working practices, including working remotely if suitable
We understand that managing a PA’s return to work could cause stress and worry. The best places to get advice and support on putting this into practice are: Your Employment Liability Insurer and your Direct Payment Support Provider.
Self-employed personal assistants (PAs)
If you have asked that a self-employed PAs does not visit to provide support during the first lockdown, you should continue to pay the self-employed PA but only until the end of August.
If the self-employed PA is not working for any other reason, they should not be paid.
If they need to claim financial support they can find more information on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme on our information for businesses and employers page.
If you have self-employed PAs who have been unable to work because they are extremely clinically vulnerable, we advise that they are only paid for hours that they actually work.
PAs who are self-isolating
Anybody who has had a specific ‘close contact’ with somebody who tests positive for Covid-19 will be expected to isolate themselves.
If a PA has had close contact with somebody who has tested positive for Covid-19 (or who has symptoms of Covid-19 and is waiting to be tested) but was wearing appropriate PPE during this close contact, it is unlikely they will need to isolate. These cases will be escalated to the local public health team to advise on, but unless there are very specific circumstances around the contact, they will usually advise your PA that they can continue to work as normal.
If your PA has had close contact with somebody who has tested positive for Covid-19 (or who has symptoms of Covid-19 and is waiting to be tested) but was either not wearing PPE at the time, or there was a PPE breach, then they will normally need to isolate for 10 days, in line with advice. It is important to keep social distancing wherever possible.
From 4 January 2021, PAs should be paid their salary if self isolating rather than SSP.
Extra expenses faced by your PA during the pandemic
In some circumstances, this will be appropriate, and necessary in order for you to receive the care and support you require during the pandemic (for example, if your PA cannot reach your home without using their own car, in cases where public transport is reduced). As an employer, you will need to consider whether the additional expense is essential, appropriate and cost-effective. If in doubt, or if additional funding will be needed, you should discuss this with your council.
ID for your personal assistants (PAs)
The council and direct payment support providers issued ID letters for PAs to prove they are keyworkers during the first lockdown. We have been advised that these will not be required during the November – December 2020 lockdown.
How to get help
If you need support caring for a child
If you employ a PA to provide care to your child, and the personal assistant is not able to work or you cannot find anyone to cover and are concerned about your child’s care, ring your social worker.
If you need adult care support
We ask you to reach out to the Adult care team on 01454 868007 as soon as possible if:
- you are an adult who employs a PA to provide care to you, and your PA is not able to work, or you cannot find anyone to cover
- your day centre closes due to Covid-19 if and you are left without essential support or are worried about how you will cope
- you are planning any changes to how you receive support from your care and support plan
- you have replacement care costs which you won’t be able to pay for from your contingency balance
Any support you put in place has to meet the outcomes from your care and support plan.
If you have been contacted directly by the NHS Coronavirus Service and asked to self-isolate contact the number on the letter or the text to arrange for food and medications.
Our list of local community groups who are offering a range of support may also be useful.
Useful contacts and further information
If you did not find the information you were looking relating to direct payments you can contact
- Prepaid Financial Services (PFS) on 0203633 1097 for direct payment card queries or to make payments
- Direct Payment Monitoring Team on 01454 865949 for any other questions relating to your direct payment
A list of direct payments support providers and their contact details are available on our direct payment support providers page.