How do Direct Payments work?

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.