The funds from direct payments can be used in a variety of ways:
- They can be used to employ personal assistants who provide support with daily living. The recipient of the direct payment, as their employer, needs to be aware of any relevant employment law and to ensure that these obligations are met.
- People may choose to purchase services from an agency of their choice, providing they are registered with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)
It is possible to have a mixed package of care using both PAs and an agency or combining direct payments with other Social Services provisions to meet individual needs.
Direct payments cannot be used to purchase residential services or services directly from the local authority.
There are some limitations to the availability of direct payments as the person in receipt of the payments, or someone on their behalf, must be able to take on the responsibility of managing the support arrangements.
Direct payments are voluntary, so no-one can be forced to receive them, and can be provided as an ongoing service or on a temporary or short-term basis as needed.
It is possible to receive direct payments if a person has been assessed as being eligible by a social worker and is one of the following:
- A disabled person aged 16 or over with a physical impairment, mental health impairment or a learning disability
- An older person (anyone aged 50 or over)
- A family with a disabled child (direct payments can be made to people with parental responsibility for a disabled child to manage on their behalf)
- A carer of a disabled person
If a person does not have the capacity to consent to direct payments, a ‘Suitable Person’ can apply to receive and manage them on their behalf. In these circumstances Social Services conduct an assessment to determine if the appointee is appropriate and to ensure that they will be acting in the person’s best interest.
There are other conditions that determine if an individual is able to receive direct payments. Whilst not necessarily considered eligibility criteria, they must be considered by the recipient when deciding if direct payments are the best option.
- The individual should be able to cope with the demands of living independently with minimum support.
- They must agree to take part and co-operate with the support available from the Direct Payment Support Service and other agreed services.
- They must understand their responsibilities and obligations, which will have been agreed in their support plan, in maintaining their home as a safe working environment.
- They must not pose a significant risk to the health and safety of support staff or the general public.
- They must, if necessary, be able to manage their own medication.
Due to certain criminal justice and mental health legislation there are some people who are unable to receive Direct Payments.
Direct payments must go into a separate bank account to the one the recipient uses for their day-to-day banking; this is because the money paid out, whilst allocated in order to purchase care and support, is only paid in place of local authority services and, therefore, is still considered to be owned by the local authority.
As such there is a requirement to keep documentation to show that the funds have only been spent on the care and support services set out in the individual’s care plan. This documentation, which is needed for regular audits, can include timesheets, payslips, annual leave records, invoices from agencies and general accounting records, depending on which support option an individual chooses to purchase.
Direct payments will usually be deposited into the account every 4 weeks but this can differ depending on the local authority.
Local authorities can place a charge on their services to conduct a financial assessment to see if an individual has to pay a ‘care contribution’ towards their own support. In Wales, this is currently capped at £100 per week.
Responsibilities and obligations
When choosing to receive direct payments there are certain obligations that must be agreed and adhered to. The local authority will have a set of terms and conditions, that may need to be signed, which will set out these responsibilities.
If someone chooses to employ personal assistants this means taking on the role of being a responsible employer and all the associated legal responsibilities. This can include recruiting and contracting employees, providing staff with up-to-date job descriptions, ensuring staff have the necessary training and managing day-to-day arrangements.
Contingency plans, for when an employee is off work, unwell or is planning to take annual leave, must also be put in place. Whilst support can be provided to advise and assist with these processes, it is the individual’s responsibility to arrange their own services and have these plans in place.
There is the legal duty to provide any employees with employment-related documents. It must be ensured that contracts, payslips and other similar documentation produced must be given to employees for their own records.
As an employer there is the responsibility to ensure that all staff are treated reasonably and fairly and that they are paid above the minimum wage.
It will be necessary to look after the health and safety of employees and also to ensure a safe work environment for any agency staff who are expected to enter an individual’s home. It is always advised that Employers Liability Insurance is taken out, particularly when employing staff, as it is a legal requirement.