Direct payments – questions you might have about direct payments and the Covid- 19.

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The government have now released guidance for people receiving direct payments. You can find this advice here . (published 21/04/20)

The Government are also extending Covid-19 Testing to included Personal assistants, you can find the government guidance about this here.

Find out more about free parking for NHS staff and Care Workers.

You can also find specific advice and guidance from your local authority: Bristol, South Gloucestershire , BaNES.

Here are some answers to questions you might have about Direct Payments in this time of the Coronavirus emergency.

Easy read information about Covid- 19

If you or someone you know require easy read information about Covid- 19, including information about the lockdown, self isolation and how to stay safe then we recommend visiting https://www.keepsafe.org.uk/resources.

Will my direct payment funding still be paid into my bank account on the normal standard pay dates?

Yes – your Council will ensure that your payments will continue to be paid on your regular payment dates.

Will WECIL still provide direct payment support and payroll services?

Yes.

WECIL’s biggest responsibility is to protect the health and safety of our community – both customers and staff. In order to reduce exposure to the virus we have made some changes to WECIL services. From 17th March 2020 our offices will be closed until further notice, but we will continue to offer telephone on 0117 947 9933 and email support at dpsupport@wecil.co.uk

We have taken the decision to stop all home visits. This began on 17th March 2020 and will be in place until further notice.

Can I still come to the office to submit my timesheets or post my timesheets?

No.

The WECIL Office is closed until further notice, but you can still get your timesheet information to us. We are all working remotely and still providing your payroll service. Most people already submit their timesheet by email to Payroll@wecil.co.uk and this is our preferred option. You can send timesheets as a photo or a typed message.

The second option is by Text or WhatsApp to 07973685919, you can send timesheets as a photo or a typed message.

The third option is to phone your hours into 0117 947 9943 (this is our least preferred option and you may need to leave a message if lines are busy)

What do I tell my PA (s) to do during this time?

Assuming your PA employees are themselves 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.

What should you do if you develop the symptoms of Coronvirus (COVID-19)?

The NHS advises if you have symptoms of Coronavirus, you will need to self-isolate for 7 days. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

After 7 days:

If you do not have a high temperature, you do not need to self-isolate

If you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal.

You do not need to self-isolate if you just have a cough after 7 days. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

If you live with someone who has symptoms of Coronavirus.

If you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started. This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.

If more than 1 person at home has symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person started having symptoms.

If you get symptoms, self-isolate for 7 days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you are self-isolating for longer than 14 days.

If you do not get symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 14 days.

Self-Isolation, advice for Direct Payment Employers & PA's

If my personal assistant has to self- isolate as they or someone in their household have shown signs of a consistent cough or fever, what do they do?

Self-isolating employees are legally defined as being unfit to attend work. They should therefore notify you of their intention to self-isolate in accordance with your sickness and absence procedures.

What are my PA’s rights if they have to self-isolate?

They have the right to remain away from work for a period of 14 days from the symptoms becoming known. You can find detailed Government guidance on staying at home due to a possible Covid-19 infection here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

They will get paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are eligible (earn over £120/week). They will be paid from day one rather than the

fourth day of their illness. This will be applied retrospectively from 13th March 2020.

You do not need evidence from your PA to be able to claim SSP for them.

If they are self-isolating and then become sick, they should let you know

They can get a sick note from NHS 111 by following the link here https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/

What if my PA does not earn enough to be eligible for SSP?

They will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a job centre. Please visit https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

If I or my PA becomes sick with symptoms relating to coronavirus, can I send them home?

Yes, if your Personal Assistant lets you know they have symptoms described by the government guidelines you should send them home to Self-isolate.

What do I do if as the Direct Payment employer I feel it is safer for my Personal Assistants to self-isolate at home for your safety, even though they have not displayed symptoms?

You will need to pay them full pay if they are on contracted hours.  

If because of coronavirus, my personal assistant does not want to come to work and neither my PA or myself (as the employer) are showing any symptoms. Do I still have to pay my personal assistant?

If the PA chooses not to work and there is no identified high risk then no pay (other than authorised annual leave) will be given as this is an unauthorised absence.

Please note that Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay are not affected.

My PA cannot work as I am self-isolating. Do I need to pay them?

If the PA is fit and wants to work, but you are telling them not to come in, then you still need to pay them their normal pay. You could ask them to take annual leave but they do not have to agree as you will not have given them the normal weeks’ notice.

You could discuss other creative options with the PA to allow them to continue to work for you, but not come into direct contact, such as doing the shopping or social interaction by telephone or video call.

Please note that the Government’s ‘furloughed worker’ scheme (Job Retention Scheme) is not intended to cover job roles that are already funded by public money such as Direct Payments.

What if my PA is not able to work and I still need care and support?

You need to develop a contingency plan. This is where you plan for such eventualities such as: is there a Care Agency who could cover, can other staff pick up shifts, could you get ex staff to work for you again. You could also ask your friends and family to help out.

There are also volunteers or community group that could help.

If the replacement staff member has been ‘furloughed’ by another employer, they need to get permission from their employer to take on paid work for anyone else. They can support you but it will have to be unpaid.

If they are currently unemployed and receiving benefits, they must declare this new employment.

If they are currently receiving Carers’ Allowance, they must declare that they are now a paid carer.

New Paid staff must receive Terms & Conditions of Employment from their employer on their first day of paid work.

The new staff member should be set up as a new employee with WECIL payroll (or your provider) in order to pay tax and national insurance as a PAYE employee.

Can I employ a family member who lives in the same house as me?

There has been a temporary relaxation in the law and it is now legal to employ a family member living with you, but you must get approval from your local authority before doing so.

I don’t want my PA to come to work as a family member can care for me as I feel that is less risky. Can I pay the family member instead of the PA?

You must still pay the PA as it is you that is asking for them no to work. If you do decided to do this you need to get it agreed with your local authority to ensure there is adequate funding to pay both the PA and the family member.

My Personal Assistant is currently unable to support me and meet my care needs. What can I do?

If you live in Bristol, for adults call Bristol Care Direct on 0117 9222 700 as soon as possible.

If you live in Bristol, for children call Disabled Children’s Team on 0117 9032 850 as soon as possible.

If you live in South Gloucestershire, for adults call Adult Social Work Team 01454 868 007 as soon as possible.

If you live in South Gloucestershire, for children call Social Work Team 01454 866 000 as soon as possible.

If you live in Bath and North East Somerset, for children call Disabled Children’s Duty Team 01225 396 913 as soon as possible.

If you live in Bath and North East Somerset, for Adults call Virgincare 0300 303 9509 as soon as possible.

If you are calling in an emergency, out of office hours the number to call is 01454 615 165

Personal Assistants with Children

What if my Personal Assistant’s children need to stay at home and PA cannot support me?

The government has published a list of key workers including health and social care workers. PAs are defined as care workers, therefore key workers. This means your PAs children can continue to attend school. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

The PA will need to contact their relevant school for further information.

On request WECIL can provide a letter to confirm they are a Keyworker.

High Risk Groups

The NHS has sent me a letter saying I am in the High Risk group and need to stay at home for 12 weeks Shielding. I do not need my PA to work while I am Shielding. Do I need to pay them?

If the PA is fit and wants to work, but you are telling them not to come in, then you still need to pay them their normal pay.

You could ask them to take annual leave but they do not have to agree as you will not have given them the normal weeks’ notice.

You could discuss other creative options with the PA to allow them to continue to work for you, but not come into direct contact, such as doing the shopping or social interaction by Telephone or video call.

Please note that the Government’s ‘furloughed worker’ scheme (Job Retention Scheme) is not intended to cover job roles that are already funded by public money such as Direct Payments.

Can my PA still work?

Yes the PA can still work, if your care needs require it. They need to follow the NHS guidelines on hygiene to reduce risk. If you have personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, aprons or masks then they should use them.

If your PA or anyone in their household is in the ‘high risk’ (shielded) category and have been told to self-isolate for 12 weeks.

If they are eligible (earn over £120/week), you should pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for the full period.

You can claim the first two weeks back but you will need to cover the cost of the other 10 weeks. You need to speak to the local authority to ensure your funding covers the costs of both the SSP and any replacement care.

What do I pay staff who are banked, casual or zero hours?

You may be able to pay them a retainer based on their average earnings over the previous 12 months out of your direct payment. You should check with your local authority or employer’s liability insurance provider.

Self Employed Personal Assistants

If my PA is self-employed and they are unwell or showing symptoms of Coronavirus can they claim statutory sick pay?

You do not have to pay sick pay for self-employed personal assistants. Self-employed personal assistants should be following Government advice in relation to claiming benefits.

The Government are changing financial measures daily but have committed to doing whatever is needed to help the nation come through this crisis. It has been announced that the Government are making provisions for loans to small businesses who have suffered interruption to their businesses.

The Government have announced that those affected by Coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending the job centre. The 7 waiting days for ESA for new claimants will not apply so it will be payable from day one.

Self-employed claimants for Universal Credit will not have a ‘Minimum Income Floor’ applied for a period of time while affected.

Can I use my direct payment funding in a more flexible way?

You will need to speak to your local authority to discuss this, you will need to justify why the expense is beneficial. They may agree to fund the additional expense, but this may not necessarily be by using the Direct payment funds. Please do not spend any money on such purchases without authorisation.

Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Personal Assistants’ (PA’s) and Family Members during the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Should we be using PPE?

Yes. If you or any member of your household is symptomatic or has a confirmed case of COVID-19, and your PA or others will be providing direct care, PPE is required. The PA as an essential worker will be eligible to receive PPE. Furthermore, if your PA normally receives PPE to support you, this should continue.

What PPE should my PA be using?

The following is a guide from Public Health England about how to use PPE during the Covid-19 Outbreak in a household setting.

Easy read information about PPE

Can I use my Direct Payment to buy PPE?

It has been agreed by Bristol, BANES and South Gloucestershire local authorities that you can use your Direct Payment funding to purchase PPE supplies if you are able to. Please keep any receipts or invoices as evidence of such purchases.

Are the Local authorities able to supply PPE to Direct payment recipients?

Yes all the Local authorities in our Area are trying to obtain and distribute PPE to Direct Payment users. If you would like to receive PPE you need to request it.

WECIL are taking PPE requests on 0117 9479933 for both BANES Children and Bristol Adult Direct Payment users and passing these requests to the local authorities who are responsible for the procurement and distribution of the PPE.

Bristol Children Direct payment users need to phone 0117 9032 850

BANES Adults Direct payment users need to phone 0300 2470050

Both Adult and Children Direct payment users in South Gloucestershire can request PPE by phoning 01454 868007

Please be aware there is a World Wide Shortage of PPE, so the Local authorities are unable to give a time scale for delivery.

Advice for the Disabled Children Service

If you live in Bristol, for children please contact the Disabled Children Service.  As most staff are working from home please email on InclusionService@bristol.gov.uk and the Team will respond no later than the next working at the latest – please give your name, your child’s name, your message and your contact telephone number so they can call you.  This enables the skeleton staff working from the office to deal with urgent safeguarding matters.  If you do not have access to email facilities and telephone the office (0117 9032 850) the skeleton staff will take your details and send the email on your behalf.  All non-urgent matters which do not require immediate action will be dealt with by our home based staff.

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