In response to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 situation, we have put together some guidance and answers to frequently asked questions for people using Direct Payments in Knowsley. Updated 20 March to include schools closure
Our support service will remain open and available for advice, guidance and information, although face-to-face meetings and home visits have stopped. Call 0151 480 8873 or email Andy Gilbert – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please bear with us though as we are dealing with a huge rise in queries from customers – as you can imagine. The situation is unprecedented and it is a challenge to process and issue clear, correct information and guidance to you all. Stay connected and keep talking to each other and we will make this work because everyone is pulling together – for which we thank you. Take care of yourselves and your families.
Our general advice is to follow the guidance:
Stay at home
- Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
- Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
- keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure within the household.
- make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
- consider extra precautions for PAs who might be more vulnerable, for example if someone is pregnant, aged 70 or over, or has a pre-existing health condition
- make sure everyone knows how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case your PA shows symptoms of the virus
- make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
- if possible provide hand sanitiser and tissues for your PA and encourage them to use them
- keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on GOV.UK
Q1 Will my Direct Payments continue to be paid?
Direct Payments will not be stopped, but recipients will not be expected to continue to pay for services that they are no longer able to access. Instead, they will need to use the Direct Payments differently in order to meet their needs in an alternative way and in an alternative environment i.e. at home. KDC and the Direct Payments Support Service team can help with further information about how to access alternative forms of support using the Direct Payment, and we will direct any queries that we are unable to answer and / or which require a Council response, to Knowsley Social Care..
Q2 Can I change the arrangements for the care and support I pay for with my direct payments?
Yes, you can change the type of support and/or services you receive as long as you pay attention to any legal issues that might arise, say from making PAs redundant or breaking an agreement with a provider. Remember, this is your personal budget and you can spend the money flexibly. You do not need permission to do something different to what was first agreed – as long as it is legal and meets your assessed needs.
Q3 I use a care agency to provide services. What happens if the service is disrupted?
You should discuss with your care agency and find alternative, different ways of arranging services that would continue to meet the needs of the individual. For example, reducing the number of home visits or changing the times of the visits. It’s important to be as flexible as possible – as long as you stay safe.
Q4 I use direct payments to access support in the community from a local organisation. What happens if the activities have to stop?
You should discuss with the provider the possibility of finding different and creative ways for activities to continue. For example, in the person’s home if possible or in a safe, open air, community space.
Consider using direct payments to recruit and employ a PA to deliver support in the home. We can help with this.
Always keep in regular touch with your provider, even if they have had to stop delivering activities, as the position may change and new ideas will emerge.
Q5 I use direct payments to employ a Personal Assistant (PA). What happens if my PA needs to self-isolate? Will they be paid and how much do I pay them?
All PAs must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) they are entitled to from day one if they need to self-isolate, as a result of:
- having coronavirus
- having coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
- coming into close contact with anybody who has coronavirus symptoms
- having been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
Remember that if someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.
If a PA cannot work, for whatever reason, they must tell you as soon as possible giving a clear reason and how long they’re likely to be off work.
You will need to be flexible if they require evidence from their PA. For example, someone might not be able to provide a sick note (fit note) if they’ve been told to self-isolate for more than 7 days.
Q6 I employ a PA. What happens if I choose to go into self-isolation? Will my PA be paid?
An employer may decide to go into self-isolation to protect themselves or a vulnerable family member. The PA will still be paid their contracted hours as they are remaining in employment. If the PA works variable hours, the payroll service will calculate their average hours over the past 12 weeks to calculate payments.
Consideration should be given to alternative tasks that the PA can undertake, for example, going shopping, posting mail and they should keep in regular contact by phone, text or email. It is important to make sure that PAs can keep in touch with each other and communicate with the employer. A good idea is to set up a WhatsApp Group.
If it is appropriate for the PA to work from home, this should be agreed with the employer and the PA will get their usual pay.
A practical, alternative is for PAs to take some annual leave from their allowance. Employers have the right to tell PAs when to take annual leave if they need to, providing reasonable notice is given. This could affect holiday PA’s have already booked or planned. So employers should:
- Explain clearly why they need the PA to take the annual leave. This will hopefully be clear if the employer needs to self-isolate or there is a case of coronavirus in the household.
- try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
Q7 What happens if my PA needs time off work to look after a family member who is self-isolating or has coronavirus?
PAs are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a dependant) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example:
- if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
- to help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
There’s no statutory requirement to pay for this time off, but there is provision to pay for special leave. The limit for this is normally 5 days but this has been relaxed for COVID-19 cases.
You should record this absence as an ‘other absence’ using the Pandemic Flu – Caring for a Dependent reason. Please notify KDC/Your Payroll when you can.
Another solution is for the PA to book a holiday.
Q8 What happens if my PA has to school-age children and the schools have closed?
After schools shut their gates on Friday 20 March, they will remain closed until further notice except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require. Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.
The list of key workers in the guidance is: doctors; nurses; midwives; paramedics; social workers; care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; and those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Schools should therefore recognise parents who are employed as PAs as key workers as they fall into the category of ‘care workers and other frontline health and social care staff’. Read more about this in the guidance here.
The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that PAs are included in the definition of key workers. If your PA is being challenged as to whether or not they are a key worker they should follow the steps below:
- contact their direct payment provider (for example their local authority or care commissioning group) to ask if they have a letter or something that validates the PA is a key worker and can share with their child(ren)’s school
- provide the school with a copy of their contract of employment
KDC has provided a letter to all PAs by email to serve as evidence that the PA is a protected worker, should their child’s school struggle to understand what a PA is.
If your PA has to take time off to look after children throughout the school closure period, you may be able to arrange for them to reduce or their hours or change their working pattern. You may also agree for them to take holiday or unpaid leave.
Q9 What happens if my PA does not want to go to work?
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they’re afraid of catching coronavirus. An employer should listen to any concerns the PA may have. If there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff, for example, if possible, the offer of flexible working.
If a PA still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.
Find out more about absence from work. From the ACAS website
Q10 What happens if my PA becomes unwell at work?
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:
- If possible, get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
- Go to a room or area behind a closed door.
- avoid touching anything
- cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
- use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
The unwell person should either:
- use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service
- call 111, for NHS advice
- call 999, if they’re seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk
It’s best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone to access these services if possible.
Q10 What happens if my PA has recently visited an affected area in Europe for example Spain, France, and Italy?
Anyone returning from any affected area, for example China or Italy, should self-isolate and either:
- use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service
- call 111, for NHS advice
Their employer must pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay while they’re in self-isolation and cannot work.
More about coronavirus
Our Contact Details:
- Your Payroll service – 0151 949 5442 email@example.com
- Managed Accounts – 0151 480 8873 firstname.lastname@example.org
20 March 2020