Personal budgets

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for people receiving direct payments

Supporting Direct Payment users

Updated: 07/10/2020

Following government guidelines, RBK have implemented the following changes:

  • Mandatory requirements through internal recording systems;

  • Communicating Direct Payment information to individuals through Kingston Centre for Independent Living (KCIL) and Kingston Carers Network (KCN);

  • Commissioning ‘Community Catalyst’ to work with Direct Payment users to introduce greater flexibility and enable more creative use of local community services;

  • RBK are maintaining high-risk registers. These are managed within the social care teams. Telephone calls are being made based on these risks and plans to implement contingency plans have started.

  • RBK has paid an emergency payment to Direct Payment holders in April 2020.

  • RBK are trialing communications by email and text messaging within the Direct Payment service;

  • The Council are working closely with voluntary sector organisations to provide support with managing demand, PPE and testing. 
     

Continuing to support Direct Payment holders during the Pandemic.

Allowing flexibility.

1 .If you are unable to find additional or a different care and support with your payment, your allocated social care worker will work with you to ensure care and support is in place through alternative arrangements such as mutual aid or directly arranged by the Council.

2. Direct Payment reviews will continue. Where possible RBK will complete reviews where planned which includes the monitoring of funds in the usual way. RBK will prioritise your review where this is requested.

3. RBK will be sympathetic when considering requests to pay a close family member if you need care provided by them for the period covered by the Coronavirus Act 2020. When we decide if this is necessary we will consider the following:

  • normal employment and payroll processes will need to be followed, including agreeing hours and pay rates

  • whether there is any additional training and assessment of competence required

  • whether there are any additional costs involved if your existing PAs are entitled to ongoing pay and why they cannot continue to support you

  • if family members take on paid care and support work, whether this will impact on any benefits they receive

  • family members are often already providing significant levels of care and support so we will consider any impact on your family members’ health and wellbeing, and whether any unreasonable strain is being put on them

  • if the family member is also the direct payment holder and the employee there will be a conflict of interest. In these instances, employment of the family member through an agency or third party may be a solution

  • any impact it may have on relationships if the family member is also an employee.

 

Making payments to services you are not able to attend or use to meet your needs.

You are not required to make payments to services you are not able to attend unless this is clearly stated in the contract you hold with the service. If this is the case, and you are required to make payments even though you do not receive the service, you should speak to RBK as soon as possible. 

You should not be paying for services if the provider has not been supporting you (Except for PAYE Personal Assistants where employment rules apply). The Council will ask for the money not used during the Pandemic. Please speak to RBK for more information.

 

Developing a contingency plan.

We recommend that everybody with a Direct Payment develops a contingency plan, or updates their existing plan, to ensure needs can continue to be met if care is at risk of breaking down because of COVID-19. 

You should discuss and agree this plan with RBK and then use it when you think it is necessary. Things you may want to consider are:

Staffing; 

Different care and support arrangements;

Different networks of support;

Upskilling of existing staff;

Emergency contacts.

 

Job Retention schemes.

How personal assistants (PAs) will be affected by the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme

RBK expects that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will not be used by many Direct Payment holders this is because RBK considers personal assistants to be an essential worker who provide vital care and support, and as such, use of this scheme should be minimal.

RBK recognises there will be certain circumstances where it would be appropriate for a Direct Payment holder to furlough somebody they employ. For example, if your personal assistant has been advised to shield through a letter from the NHS or has certain caring responsibilities.

The eligibility of self-employed personal assistants for the scheme

Self-employed personal assistants are not eligible for the scheme. People who are Self-Employed who have been affected by coronavirus should check whether they are eligible to receive a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. This is easy to use and will tell a worker whether they are eligible and how much they can claim.

 

Monitoring Requirements.

Reviewing of budgets during the pandemic

Budgets will continue to be reviewed during the pandemic. RBK will take a proportionate approach to reviewing how Direct Payments have been spent. Records should be kept as normal so they are available when the next review takes place.

Evidencing spending during the pandemic

As normal practice, you should keep hold of any receipts or evidence that shows how the Direct Payment has been used. You should have them available at your next review with RBK, this includes bank statements when requested.
 

Personal Assistants access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

If either you or a member of your household falls within the clinically extremely vulnerable group, your personal assistant should also follow advice on the use of PPE

People receiving Direct Payments normally purchase their own PPE from their preferred supplier and should continue to do so. Where there are issues with lack of supply or pricing or if you are having difficulty in obtaining the required PPE, you should approach RBK and ask for assistance. Email: [email protected]

Testing for Personal Assistants and how they can access them.

The government considers personal assistants as essential workers and therefore applications for tests can be made on GOV.UK. Alternatively, you can refer your personal assistant for a test yourself. This can be done through the employer referral portal.

The test is most effective in the first 3 days of infection (but can still be effective up to 5 days). This means that any personal assistant who has COVID-19 related symptoms should get tested as soon as possible. Tests should not be done after 5 days of infection, unless they are specifically told it is possible.

Free Flu vaccines for Personal Assistants (PAs).

All frontline health and social care workers should get the winter flu vaccination – including all Personal Assistants (PAs). For the first time, this year, PAs will be able to access the vaccine free of charge from GPs and community pharmacies, via the NHS Complementary Scheme. This vaccination is available now.

Guidance will be published soon however we are taking the step of issuing a summary and how to access it so that PAs can begin to access the flu vaccination now. 

To access the scheme, PAs will simply need to attend a GP surgery or community pharmacy and identify themselves as a PA. However, we are aware that individuals have been asked to provide proof in the past and we have therefore provided a letter that can be used for identification. (Applies to both PAYE and Self-employed PAs)

The process for PAs to access the flu vaccination, is as follows:

  • Contact Kingston Centre for Independent living (KCIL) who will share the letter with you. E-mail [email protected] or phone: 020 8546 9603.

  • The direct payment holder will fill out the letter, to prove they are a PA. Once the PA has this, this will act as their ‘letter of entitlement’ to the vaccination.

  • They will then need to visit their local GP or community pharmacist, who will be able to give them the flu vaccination. If they need to prove their entitlement, they can use the letter of entitlement and a copy of guidance (when published).

  • The vaccination will then be given to them, free of charge.
     

How do Direct Payment users contact the Council?

The local area helpline number is: 0208 547 5005 or email: [email protected] if Direct Payment users have any care package issues. You will be directed to your allocated care team/worker.

These arrangements will not continue beyond the period of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and may change as and when further guidance is circulated or are developments in the pandemic.