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Fact Sheets

Contents

Fact Sheet 1 - What can you use your Direct Payment for?
Fact Sheet 1a - Parents of Disabled Children, what can you use your direct payment for?
Fact Sheet 2 - What documents you need to keep
Fact Sheet 3 - Employing Personal Assistants/Support Staff
Fact Sheet 4 - Using Your Direct Payment to buy a Service/Agency
Fact Sheet 5 - Recruiting Personal Assistants
Fact Sheet 6 - Troubleshooting/Difficult situations for employers
Fact Sheet 7 - Contracts of Employment
Fact Sheet 8 - Budgeting
Fact Sheet 9 - Contingency Fund Explained
Fact Sheet 10 - Backup Arrangements
Fact Sheet 11 - Recruiting Personal Assistants
Fact Sheet 12 - DAD Direct Payments Support Payroll Service

Fact Sheet 1

What can you use your Direct Payment for?

You should use your Direct Payment to meet your needs identified in your support plan / assessment, which you should already have a copy of.  You are in the best position to know how your needs can best be met. Below are some examples of how you might use your Direct Payment to meet different needs
Examples include:

• To meet domestic needs e.g. laundry / housework you can use your direct payment to: buy a cleaning agency, gardening service, employ your own staff or using an ironing service.

• To meet your personal care needs you can employ your own staff, purchase services from a care agency registered to provide personal care.

• To meet social needs you could employ your own staff, purchase a day service or other services/ groups that you feel you would benefit from or use the services of a care agency.

If you are a carer:
Some examples to provide a break/respite:

• You could use your Direct Payment for somebody to assist the person you care for whilst you have time to yourself.

• Pay for somebody to assist the person you care for to go on holiday.

• Pay for somebody to assist you and the person you care for to go on holiday together.

• You can also request a carer’s assessment that can provide help in supporting you to be a carer.

• To meet domestic needs e.g. laundry / housework you can use your direct payment to: buy a cleaning agency, gardening service, employ your own staff or using an ironing service.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What if I want to use a Direct Payment for something which is not listed above?

The government and Darlington Borough Council want to encourage people to use their direct payment flexibly. However you need to discuss this with your care manager or ourselves for guidance before doing this.

Is there any support to help you choose how you spend your Direct Payment?

The support service can support you to look at your options. Many people have told us they have found this helpful, as we can give examples of how other people have used their Direct Payment. We also have information on local services you can purchase.

I have been using a Direct Payment a while and want to use it differently from what I have in my support plan, is this OK?

If you are going to use your Direct Payment differently but in a way that meets your needs identified in your support plan, this should be fine, however it needs to be agreed by your care manager first.

What if I want to choose the person to assist me but don’t want to be an employer?

This is possible by using an agency which will be the legal employer. Please ask us for further information.

What is a personal assistant?

A personal assistant is simply somebody who you choose to assist with tasks in a way where you continue to have choice and control. As an organisation we feel the job title of Personal Assistant is more positive and describes their role more accurately than a ‘carer’. It is of course your choice!!!

OK, so I think I want to employ my own personal assistant. What next?

The support service will support you through the process by giving you information on a one to one basis and also through written information (see also Fact Sheets 3, 4, 5).

For further information and advice please contact:
Direct Payment Support Service, Enterprise House, Valley Street, Darlington, DL1 1GY, Telephone 01325 360524.
Our office is located on Valley Street opposite Homecare. Parking is available around the back of the building.

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Fact Sheet 1a

Parents of Disabled Children
What you can use your direct payment for?

Direct Payments are a way for parents to be in control of the support their child receives.

You should use your Direct Payment to meet your child’s needs described in your child’s assessment which you should already have a copy of. You are in the best position to know how your child’s needs can best be met. Below are some examples of how you might use your Direct Payment to meet different needs.

Here are some examples of what you could use your Direct Payment for, which may give you a break and also support your child around social skills:

• Employ a support worker / personal assistant to support your child on a one to one basis.

• Buy the services of an agency / organisation to provide support to your child (we have information on different agencies in Darlington).

• Buying places at after school clubs, out of school clubs / play schemes or nurseries.

• Using a child minder for support during the day.

• If you have a Direct Payment for short break that covers overnight there are a range of options that include overnight child minders, foster agencies and services which also provide this service.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What if I want to use a Direct Payment for something which is not listed above?

A: The government and Darlington Borough Council want to encourage people to use their Direct Payment flexibly. However you need to discuss this with your social worker / childcare officer or ourselves for guidance.

Q: Is there any support to help you choose how you spend your Direct Payment?

A: The support service can support you to look at your options. Many people have told us they have found this helpful, as we can give examples of how other people have used their Direct Payment. We also have information on local service you can purchase.

Q: What if I want to choose the person to support my child but don’t want to be an employer?

A: This is possible by using an agency which will be the legal employer. Please ask us for further information.

Q: What is a personal assistant?

A: A personal assistant is simply somebody who you choose to assist with tasks in a way where you continue to have choice and control. As an organisation we feel the job title of Personal Assistant is more positive and describes their role more accurately than a ‘carer’. It is of course your choice!!!

Q: OK, so I think I want to employ my own personal assistant. What next?

A: The support service will support you through process through giving you information on a one to one basis. There are also other fact sheets available.

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Fact Sheet 2

What documents you need to keep

As part of the agreement with the local authority when you receive a Direct Payment, you agree to account for how you have spent the money. This is straightforward by following the information below.

Please keep the following information relating to the separate account which your Direct Payment is paid into:

All Direct Payment users:

• Bank statements

• Receipts or invoices for money you spend

If you employ a personal assistant:

• Time sheets (which you get supplied when you start to use your Direct Payment). The finance Officer will provide you with these or the support service has spare copies.

• Details of any expenses your personal assistants claim.

• If your personal assistant / support staff use their own car and claim mileage, you need to ensure that you complete mileage forms detailing each journey as this record is required by HMRC.

• You need to securely store all documentation related to being an employer, i.e. insurance documents, employment contracts, payroll documents, HMRC documentation.

• When you first start your Direct Payment you need to send in this information on 12 weekly basis for the first 6 months. Depending on the support you need to manage your Direct Payments alongside other relevant factors, your care manger may then be happy that you send this information on a 6 monthly or annual basis. The first time you receive your Direct Payment in your separate bank account the local authority’s Direct Payment Finance Officer will send you a full set of paperwork.

Support Available to help you with completing 12 weekly returns:

If you have agreed with your care manager that you will be using support from DAD Direct Payments Support Service, we will contact you before your first 12 weekly returns is due to check you understand what you need to do. We will also discuss with you what on-going support you need. This includes whether you need the support service to complete these on your behalf.

If you forget to complete these the Direct Payment Finance Officer will send you a reminder. She will also contact you if there are any problems with your 12 weekly returns.

The main thing to remember is to keep the documents listed above and if you have difficulties to ask for help.

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Fact Sheet 3

Employing Personal Assistants / Support Staff

A summary of employers’ responsibilities
Becoming an employer and employing your own staff directly usually gives you the most control over your assistance, but it also gives you responsibilities under the law. This may sound daunting, but there is a lot of support available to you, making being an employer as simple and as effective as possible for you. As long as you get advice or support whenever you might need it, you have every chance of getting what you want out of being an employer.

Tax and National Insurance
You must be registered with the tax office (now called HM Revenue and Customs) and, where appropriate, you must deduct tax and national insurance from your employees’ wages and also pay employer’s national insurance contributions - the Support Service can do this on your behalf as part of our Payroll service, where you have agreed with your care manager to use this service.

Health and Safety
You and your employees must take a sensible approach to health and safety. It is not possible to avoid all risks, but you should balance risk against other important factors, such as your dignity and living your life the way you want to, and then do things in the safest way that will work for you. You can get support in thinking about health and safety issues from the Support Service or from the Occupational Therapy team. Prior to becoming an employer, you should have completed an assessment of risks to your staff. You should complete a risk assessment to highlight any risks to your employees in the course of their work.

Entitlement to work in the UK
An employer is acting unlawfully if they employ a person who does not have the right to work in the UK. When employing your own staff you need to ensure that you have seen original documents which prove that the individual has the right to work in the UK. These documents include a passport showing the holder is a UK citizen or a national of a European Economic area or Switzerland, or a residence permit. For a full list of documents and more information please see UK Border Agency website

Employer’s Liability Insurance
By law, an employer must have employer’s liability insurance and public liability insurance. This will cover you if, for example, an employee is injured, or accidently damages someone else’s property in the course of their work. Some policies designed for Direct Payments employers also cover you for other things, including free advice on employment law, full legal advice, and even cover for representation and tribunals if you should ever need it. We recommend you take out this cover. If DAD is supporting you to set up your Direct Payment we can provide you with details of different insurance providers.

Being a fair employer / Disciplinary issues
You must not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, nationality, colour, ethnic background or belief. If you have a disciplinary problem with an employee, you must deal with it in a fair and open way, in accordance with government guidance, and you will need to keep a record to show that you have acted fairly you can get support with this from the Support Service, the ACAS helpline (0845 7474747) or a consultancy service attached to your employer’s insurance. You can also take out an insurance policy which provides cover and on-going advice if you run into any difficulties. DAD can give you further information on available policies, and in the event of difficulties provide a range of support and advice.

Holidays for employees
You must give your employees the opportunity to take paid holidays. They are entitled to 5.6 weeks off a year, including any national holidays they may take. If someone works part-time, say 10 hours per week for example, then when they have arranged to take a week off they would be paid 10 hours holiday pay; if they work 15 hours a week they would be paid 15 hours holiday pay, and so on. The support service can help you work this out. DAD can provide further advice and support to work out entitlements.

Safeguarding
We always advise that you undertake pre-employment checks, including references and Disclosure and Barring checks; even if you know the person you are going to employ. The support service can do this on your behalf. Please see fact sheet “Good recruitment practice” for further information.
If for any reason you feel that a person who is working or has worked for you is unsuitable to work with vulnerable people it is important that you report this. Examples may include financial abuse or physical or emotional abuse. Please speak to the support service or contact the Access and Contact Team at Darlington Borough Council.

Sick Pay/ Maternity pay
Should your personal assistant receive Statutory Maternity Pay or Statutory Sick Pay, it is important that the correct deductions are made. Your payroll provider can give you more information.

Budgeting your Direct Payment
You need to budget to ensure you have sufficient money to/ for:

• Make payments for wages due
• Pay Inland Revenue and Employers National Insurance
• Accumulate sufficient contingency to meet redundancy pay requirements
• Replacement cover in the case of maternity cover, sick cover, emergency cover etc.
• Employers Liability Insurance
• Expected and unexpected employers costs

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Fact Sheet 4

Using Your Direct Payment to buy a Service / Agency

One option for using your Direct Payment is to choose a home care agency (also known as a domiciliary agency) to provide care. Usually choosing an agency means you will not be the employer and the agency will be responsible for wages, insurance, managing staff etc. You will maintain choice and control as you will make the arrangements for when, where and how your support will be provided.

The agency will invoice you for their services, which you pay from your Direct Payment bank account.

You should check that the agency provides a written breakdown of all of their costs, and ensure that you have a written agreement of your arrangements with the agency of what support will be provided. It is important to make sure you have all the information you need and don’t get caught out by unexpected costs, e.g. extra charges for bank holidays and mileage. Some agencies may charge a rate that is higher than the Direct Payment rate paid to you, and you may have to cover the difference from your personal funds. You should discuss any additional costs with your Care Manager.

Agencies that provide personal care are legally required to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). You can ask the agency to show you details of its registration.

Before deciding to buy a service from a particular agency, it is recommended that you find out:

• The agency’s CQC registration
• Their insurance policy
• Staff undertaking Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks
• How staff are managed
• How they ensure you as a customer are happy with their service
• If all staff are employed by the agency and all tax and insurance payments are met
• How complaints are dealt with
• How staff cover work over holidays / sickness
• What training staff are given and what experience / qualification they require of their staff
• What risk assessments will be carried out
• If you can get a breakdown of the hours staff work so you can make sure you are paying the correct amount
• How much the service will cost

After you have been working with members of staff for a while you may think about employing them directly rather than through the agency. Some agencies will allow this but may have conditions. If you think you may want to go down this route, you can get support from the Direct Payments Support Service.

These are just a few suggested questions that you might want to ask when investigating options for agencies, if there is anything else you need to know be sure to contact the agency and find out how they can support you with your specific circumstances.

If the agency tells you they will not be able to continue providing care for you, please contact Adult Social Services and ask to speak to the Duty Team as soon as possible on 01325 346 200 or out of office hours the Emergency Duty Team is available on 08702 402 994.

The Direct Payments Support Service has a list of domiciliary agencies that you can look into. You can get a copy from the office or from this page on our website.

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Fact Sheet 5

Recruiting Personal Assistants

Good recruitment practice

Many people choose to employ their own personal assistants or support workers to meet their needs. Personal assistance can be an excellent way of getting the support you need which matches your lifestyle and also gives you greater control and choice over your support.

Please also read Fact Sheet 3 - Becoming an Employer and Employer Responsibilities, Fact Sheet 5 - What to do as an employer if things are not working well. Templates are available in this section.

DAD Direct Payment Support Service has a range of options to support you to recruit and employ your own personal assistants, which this fact sheet will help to explain.

There is some essential information which you should take into account when first becoming and employer and whenever you are recruiting:

• We advise you not to interview in your home. We have meeting room facilities you can use as part of using our service.

• We strongly advise that you always take out a Disclosure and Barring check and references, even if you know the person you are employing. This is for your safety and peace of mind but also to protect other Direct Payment users, as we do not want unsuitable applicants to think they will not have checks carried out. We are able to support you to carry out all these checks, through our vetting service.

• Do not put your own address and contact details on your advert. We can act as a correspondence address as part of our service.

As a support service we can also help you in the following ways (further information is available in the Direct Payment Access Guide and the DAD website):

• Support you to think about how you might use personal assistance.

• Word an advert and support you to advertise.

• Send and process applications for you, then post and forward these to you.

• Arrange interviews with people who you want to meet.

• Support you to think about questions you want to ask.

• Support you at the interviews if this is what you would like.

• Provide you with a contract which you can adapt to your situation.

• We can provide a payroll service and documents needed to set this up.

Advertising and recruitment support options from DAD

We produce a vacancy flier which we send to people interested in personal assistance work. You are able to advertise in the flier which will include your advert with a reference number so applicants can indicate if they want to apply for your job.
We can also support you to put your advert in the job centre or if you choose to, in a local paper.
In addition we also have a personal assistant register and a bank of support workers with details of people who are currently looking for work. You can access this by calling into the office or we can give you details over the phone.

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Fact Sheet 6

Troubleshooting/ Difficult situations for employers

Many people find employing a personal assistant gives the most flexibility and control over their lives. Below is some information to help you avoid some pitfalls and what to do if you are having difficulties.

Top Tips for avoiding trouble:

• Think carefully when employing friends or relatives. Remember you are their employer and you need to be able to separate this from friendship. Agree on some guidelines and rules so you both understand what is acceptable and what is not. There are some suggested rules as part of the template contract in this pack and also on the website.

• Always issue a contract, the support service has template contracts which you can adapt to meet your needs. This includes a disciplinary and grievance procedure which we suggest you follow. Please check that any amendments are lawful.

• Take out full cover with your employer’s liability insurance. This will provide you with legal advice should you need it and any payments warded for unfair dismissal. It costs approximately £50.00 extra per year and can be paid out of your Direct Payment. Please ask the support service for further details.

• Always undertake Disclosure and Barring checks and references. The support service can help you with these.

• Ensure your personal assistant knows they should be giving you sufficient notice for holidays and time off.

• Have a back-up plan in case your personal assistant is off work or on holiday.

• Remember it is your Direct Payment and it should meet your needs not the needs of your personal assistants. Start as you mean to go on.

• Always ask for support and advice as soon as possible. Most issues can be resolved when dealt with at an early stage.

• If your personal assistant supports you with dealing with finances, ensure procedures are in place to prevent unauthorised access to your finances and fraudulent activity. For example we advise against your personal assistant having PIN numbers, ability to sign on the account and undertaking your financial support without you being there. This will protect both you and your personal assistant. Further advice is available from your care manger or the support service.

What to do if you are having a problem with your personal assistant:

• The support service can help you talk through your difficulties and what options you may have if you use our service. We can provide very practical support such as helping you speak to your personal assistant with you or assisting to write letters or note taking in meetings.

• If you have taken out the enhanced employers liability insurance this will cover advice from legally trained advisors. The policy also provides you with insurance should you be taken to court for unfair dismissal or other matters. Therefore if you have this policy you should always speak to the advisors to make sure your insurance cover is valid. We can do this on your behalf if you wish, if you use our service.

• If your personal assistants behaviour is so serious you want to take immediate action always suspend the person on full pay pending an investigation. Seek advice immediately before you take further steps.

• If you are having a difficulty with your personal assistant and need to speak to them (even if it is a minor problem), always keep a note of the dates and what you agreed. This will help if you want to start formal disciplinary proceedings in the future.

• Always seek advice as soon as you have a problem

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Fact Sheet 7

Contracts of Employment

The law states that you must exchange a written contract with each employee, within eight weeks of when the employee started to work for you. Even before the written contract is exchanged however, you already have a contract with anyone who works for you, simply as a result of them doing work for you in return for money. According to the law, a written contract is only one part of the contract that exists between you.

The whole contract is made up of:-

• any written contract

• any verbal arrangement or agreement between the employer and the employee

• what is normally done when the employee is working for the employer

• what the law says must be part of the contract.

The Support Service can provide you with a written ‘example contract’ (which was drawn up in consultation with ACAS, who give advice on employment law to employers and employees). You may use this contract as it is, if it suits you, or you may adapt it to suit your needs. We can support you to adapt it if you require. We do recommend that you get advice about any changes you make, to ensure that they are legal.

Depending on the way you need your employees to work, it may be useful to add clauses about the importance of arriving at work at the right time, or about not being allowed to finish until the next worker arrives, or about what your employee needs to do if they want to change their working times for a particular week e.g. how much notice they must give you, or whether they must ensure that alternative cover has been agreed before they can take time off. The template contract is also available on the website.

You can get advice on employment law from the Support Service, from the ACAS helpline on 08457 474747, or if you have one of the "full cover" employer’s insurance policies, you can get advice from an employment law advice line which they provide, and which can include legal advice from a solicitor if necessary. The Support Service can contact sources of advice on your behalf if necessary.

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Fact Sheet 8

Budgeting

The funding you receive through Direct Payments each month has been based upon the number of hours or the cost of support for which you have been agreed as requiring assistance in your support plan

Budgeting for Employers

The hourly wage paid to your personal assistant must not fall below the minimum wage, otherwise you will be breaking the law. However, if the pay rates are too low you may find it harder to recruit reliable staff.

So long as you stay within the overall limits of your Direct Payments income and are able to account accurately on the Financial Statement for the Direct Payment monies you have spent, met any legal or other responsibilities you have, you can work out your own budget to make sure that you get the most from your funding.

If you are using DAD Direct Payments Support Service we can help you budget your Direct Payment. As an employer you need to think about budgeting the following, which will accumulate in your Direct Payment bank account:

• Hourly rate (must be at least minimum wage)

• Current employer national insurance rate where needed

• Expenses and mileage (proof of expenditure needed)

• Holiday pay where replacement cover is needed

• Sickness fund to cover any sickness pay which cannot be claimed back from HMRC and any extra cost needed for replacement cover.

• Contribution, redundancy and notice pay, which will need to accumulate should you need this.

• Employers liability insurance which need to be paid annually.

• Any monies for enhanced rates where you choose to pay these, bank holiday, evening rates, etc.

If you use an agency: please see Factsheet 4 - Using your Direct Payment to buy a service / agency - Considerations when arranging support.

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Fact Sheet 9

Contingency Fund Explained

If you are an employer, your contingency fund is the amount of money that will accumulate each week to cover items such as Maternity Pay, Bank Holidays, and Emergency Cover. It will also include money that is already committed but that you have not yet paid, such as holiday pay, tax and National Insurance contributions etc. The amount you can carry forward depends on how much funding you get.

If your contingency fund is less than the expected amount (usually 3 or 4 weeks times your weekly Direct Payment), it may indicate that you are underfunded. If it is more than the expected amount, Social Services may want to ask why you are not spending the money. It is important to point out that the council will not just take into account the amount of contingency that has accumulated for future expenditure, e.g. holiday pay and redundancy, but also the speed at which it has accumulated too. If you are concerned about the level of contingency fund please talk to the support service or your care manager.

You should only use your contingency for support agreed in your support plan or agreed with your care manager.

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Fact Sheet 10

Backup Arrangements

No matter how well organised you are, inevitably there will be times when your personal assistants are unable to come to work, for example through illness. A backup list of people you can call on in an emergency if your usual staff are unable to come to work is essential. This is something you should do before anything goes wrong, to avoid problems later.

Your options for finding assistance in an emergency are:

• Family and friends

• Existing personal assistants

• Previous personal assistants

• Specially recruited backup staff

• An agency

• Care Manager / Social Services

Family and Friends

Using family and friends to assist you in an emergency is really up to your own preference. For some people it will be a preferred option, for others it will be a last resort.

Existing Personal Assistants

Contacting other members of your team to see if they could work at short notice is often a very good way of dealing with an emergency. Your existing staff know your needs and it would therefore save you from having to explain everything to new workers. It is always a good idea to think about this when you are recruiting staff by asking your applicants how flexible they can be and if they would be available to work at short notice. How successful using your existing personal assistants for backup will depend on how many staff you employ.

Previous Personal Assistants

Keeping in touch with personal assistants who used to work for you can also be a useful way of increasing the number of people you can call upon for backup. It is always a good idea to ask them when they leave if they would be willing to provide cover in an emergency.

Specially Recruited Backup Staff

Recruiting a number of personal assistants to provide backup can be a good idea, but many people have found that it is difficult to make this approach work effectively. The problem is that most people do not use their backup staff enough to keep them interested in the job, so at the time when they do need them, they are not available.

An Agency

Another option in an emergency is to use staff from a private agency. If you want to do this you should make contact with the agency in advance and explain your situation. If you leave it to the last minute, it is unlikely that they will be able to assist you. You may find that the charges made by an agency are more than you have in your Direct Payment budget. If the problem is likely to go on for some time, you should contact your Care Manager to discuss this matter as soon as possible.

Care Manager / Social Services

If all else fails you could telephone Social Services. If you do this outside of office hours a recorded message will give you an emergency number to ring to speak to the Duty Officer.

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Fact Sheet 11

Recruiting Personal Assistants

Where to Begin

The process of recruiting staff has the following elements:

• Deciding how many staff you want and what hours they will need to work (drawing up a rota)
• Producing information to send to applicants: a job description, personal specification and application form
• Writing an advertisement and deciding where to place it
• Shortlisting
• Interviewing
• Taking up references
• Disclosure and Barring check
• Making an offer of the job

When you begin to recruit your own staff, it is useful to have some general answers to the following questions:

• How many staff are necessary to provide the assistance I need?
• What hour will they work? (i.e. What sort of rota will I use to organise them?
• What is possible and realistic within my Direct Payments budget?

At this stage all you need are some general ideas as there will be lots of opportunities to sort out the details later on. The most important thing to consider is what arrangements will best enable you to live your life in the way you choose. You may find it useful to refer to your self-assessment to gain some idea of the times when you need assistance and what pattern your assistance takes throughout a week or month.

Once you have established the times you need a personal assistant, you will need to consider:

How many personal assistants you need in order to meet your care needs flexibly:

• The number of hours each personal assistant will work.
• The type of rota you will use; ’fixed’ or a ‘rotating’ rota.

Achieving the right balance depends on:

• The amount of assistance you need.
• Your lifestyle.

More staff working fewer hours

Advantages

• More staff to cover holidays and sick leave
• You may be able to save money by keeping employees’ wages under tax and National Insurance thresholds.

Disadvantages

• More personal assistants to organise
• More complicated rotas
• You may have to organise your activities around shift changes.

Less staff working more hours

Advantages

• Less personal assistants, so less complicated rotas.
• You do not always have to organise your life around so many shifts.

Disadvantages

• Not so many people to fall back on if one of your personal assistants is off sick.
• Long hours may affect the quality of your personal assistants work.

Recruitment Checklist

Before advertising

• Job description
• Application form
• Interview venue
• Correspondence address
• Telephone number

Where advertising

• Local shops
• Job Centre
• Newspapers
• Other

1-3 Weeks

• Closing date for applications

2-3 Days

• Shortlisting date and sending letters for interviews

1 Week

• Interview Date

1-2 Days

• Letters offering job / rejecting applicants
• Letters to check references
• Form to carry out police check
• Letter of appointment
• Accepted
• Start date and signing contract

Job Descriptions

A job description is a written description of what you expect your personal assistants to do. It is an important document, which is essential in making sure that you communicate your wishes and needs clearly. When setting up and running your direct payment it is useful for the following reasons:

When you are recruiting personal assistants it can be sent out along with the application form to let applicants know exactly what the job involves.

When you employ someone it forms part of the employment contract and so provides you with a basis for measuring whether your personal assistant is carrying out his or her work effectively. It is also useful for sorting out any disagreements or misunderstandings between you and your employees.

The main areas which need to be included are:

• The purpose of the job

• Duties

• Hours

• Rates of pay

It should also include a general ‘catch all’ phrase to cover new and unforeseen tasks (e.g. ‘Enabling me to carry out any chosen activity, whether inside or outside my home, by carrying out any other requests which I may reasonably make’).

Preparing for recruitment and selection

Before we move on to the actual recruitment and selection process, there are a few things to consider. You are planning a new relationship - you being the employer to your employee(s). You are the employer as well as a supervisor, evaluator and service user.

For many people this will be their first experience of being an employer and remaining in control. It is therefore important to remember that it is not a parent / child relationship, a student / teacher, a friendship or a romantic affair! There might be ingredients of these relationships developing over time, but the basic fact remains YOU are the EMPLOYER.

It is very important that you are clear about this in your own mind from the start. It is also vital that you make sure your care arrangements fit around your needs and not the needs of your personal assistants.

Be clear in your communication - your personal assistant is not a mind reader.

Giving clear and concise instructions can avoid conflicts and resentments.

Be aware that there are other kinds of services such as District Nurses, Chiropodists etc. that you may be entitled to. Your personal assistant need not be a total substitute for the trained and technical assistance you need.

Finally, keep your focus; always remember that your goal is to keep as much independence as possible.

Advertising, Interviewing and Screening

To begin advertising you need to do two things:

• Decide what you want to say in your advertisement

• Decide where you will advertise (e.g. Local shop, newspaper)

An advert does not have to say everything. It is simply a way of attracting the attention of the kind of people you would like to work for you.

You should include:

• What the work is

• How many hours work per week

• How much you will pay

• How to contact you

You might also want to include things you specifically require from your personal assistants (e.g. ‘non-smoker essential’ or ‘must be reliable’).

Whether you ask for someone with experience depends very much on what you want since, from the experience of other disabled people, employing people with experience can have disadvantages as well as advantages. Someone with experience may need less training in certain aspects of the job, but may have more fixed ideas about how things should be done and therefore less willing to listen to your directions. Not asking for experience can attract more applicants (including the people with experience) and they may be less set in their ways, however, they may require more training at the beginning.

Example Advertisement:

A disabled lady is looking for a domestic assistant for housework and shopping.
Hours: 2 hours per week for domestic assistance, 3 hours to access social activities.
Wage £7.00 per hour
Applicants must be: Reliable, confident, flexible but punctual and have a good understanding of confidentiality. Access to transport would be preferred.
If interested please write to: Mr B Jones c/o Direct Payments Support Service, Unit 1B, Enterprise House, Valley Street North, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 1GY or telephone 01325 360 524.

Where to Advertise

Local Shops and Supermarkets

Advantages

• Usually free
• Good way of recruiting staff that live locally.
• Good for jobs less than 15 hours per week.

Disadvantages

• Circulation confined to local area.
• Not so good for full-time posts.

Local Organisations’ Newsletters

Advantages

• Inexpensive or free
• Good way of recruiting staff who live locally
• Good way of targeting a specific group

Disadvantages

• Circulation is mostly confined to membership, although can be wider if newsletter is displayed in Community Centres, libraries, etc.

Job Centres

Advantages

• Free service
• Good for full-time jobs
• Can assist with interview rooms (check accessibility beforehand)

Disadvantages

• Not good for part-time jobs
• May be overwhelmed by a large number of applicants
• May refer people not suitable for the job unless given clear information

Newspapers and Magazines

Advantages

• Very wide circulation

Disadvantages

• Can prove very expensive

Shortlisting

By the closing date, a number of the people who initially contacted you as a result of your advert(s) will have returned completed application forms. The information on the application forms should allow you to decide whom you want to interview. You should not discriminate on the ground of age etc.

It is a god idea to draw up your shortlist as soon as you can after the closing date for applications. People who are looking for work will usually have applied for several other jobs, so if you do not get back to them quickly they may have already found another job.

There is no single method of drawing up a shortlist which works for everyone. As you gain experience you will develop your own methods which work well for you. Many people find it helpful to ask another person to assist them as it can be useful to have someone to discuss your impressions with.

Sort out the applications which are obviously not suitable by checking:

• the times when applicants are available to work

• whether they meet any specific requirements you have requested (e.g., qualifications, etc.)

Then read through the other sections:

• Look out for patronising attitudes and prejudices

• Check employment history and reasons for leaving previous jobs

• Check they have given two referees

• Check ‘Declaration of Criminal Convictions’

After you have a rough idea of who you think is best, you may want to go through the positive applications again and make notes on specific questions you want to ask particular applicants at interview.

Contacting People

Once you have finalised your shortlist you need to contact the people who you want to interview to inform them:

• That they have been selected for an interview

• The venue, date and time of the interview

• How they can contact you to confirm they will be attending the interview.

You may want to write to unsuccessful applicants as a courtesy to thank them for their application.

There are several standard format sample letters available from the Direct Payments Support Service.

Interviewing

Gaining information about the applicant

The interview gives you the opportunity to gain more information about an applicant than has been given on the application form.

To do this effectively it is a good idea to prepare a list of questions beforehand. Many people find that it is best to start with general questions that you want to ask every applicant. You can then add other questions that you want to ask each particular applicant.

Giving Information to the Applicant

Although the main purpose of the interview is to get as much information as possible about an applicant, it also gives you the chance to explain to them some of the details about the job.

Although applicants should know what the hours of work and rates of pay are from your advertisements and job descriptions, it is helpful to run through this again and to outline other terms and conditions.

Assistance with Interviewing

It is a good idea to ask someone to assist you with interviewing because:

• It is good to have someone who you can discuss your impressions of applicants with.

• You may need someone to assist you with taking notes.

• It can also help you to remain in control of the situation.

During the Interview

The basic idea of an interview is to get your applicant to reveal as much information as possible. To do this, you want to make them feel relaxed and comfortable. Make sure that their first contact is a friendly one, that there is a comfortable chair for them and that you will not be disturbed by people coming in and out of the room, or the telephone ringing.

The best way to get information about people is to encourage them to talk freely about themselves. Unfortunately, most applicants will come along expecting to be asked a lot of questions. If, when you first meet them, you ‘break the ice’ by asking them about their journey or discussing the weather for a moment or two, this will help to put them at their ease. You can then go on to introduce yourself and anyone else on the interview panel and explain what kind of interview it is going to be and the order of events. For example, ‘first I will tell you a little about the job and then I will ask you to tell me about yourself’.

Interview Questions

Preparing a list of questions beforehand is essential to make sure that you get the information you want.

General Questions

These are questions you want to ask every applicant, they might include:

• Why do you want the job as my personal assistant?
• Describe briefly what you understand the job as my personal assistant to involve.
• The job title is Personal Assistant. Can you describe what the difference is between Personal Assistant and Carer?
• Could you tell me why you would be good at this job?
• Do you have any previous experience that you feel would prove useful?
• It is important that my personal assistants respect my privacy and confidentiality. What does this mean to you in practical terms?
• How flexible can you be? Are there any times you would be unable to work?
• Is there anything you think you might find difficult about the job?

There are only example questions and you can make up your own. The important thing to remember is that during the interview you want to encourage the applicant to keep talking about themselves. Don’t ask too many ‘closed’ questions which will encourage ‘Yes / No’ answers. For example, if you asked someone ‘Are you a good cook?’ they would be likely to reply yes or no. Saying ‘could you tell me about the sort of things you like to cook?’ could be much more fruitful.

Don’t be afraid of allowing short periods of silence or pauses. This gives your applicant time to think and may also force them to describe themselves.

Specific Questions

As well as general questions you may also want to ask questions that are specific to each applicant and deal with issues raised by their application form. For example, if an applicant lives a long way from you and does not drive, it may be a good idea to ask how they plan to get to work. This gives you the opportunity of seeing if they have thought through all that the job involves and how serious they are about it. Similarly, you might want to establish just when an applicant is available for work if they have neglected to answer that question on the application form. Make a list of specific questions you want to ask.

General Tips

Try and give as positive an impression as you can at all time. Your facial expression can do a great deal to encourage or discourage the applicant.

If you acknowledge what they say with a smile or a nod of the head they are more likely to go on talking than if you appear bored or not interested. Remember, you can decide what you think about their answers after the interview.

Using an applicant’s name throughout the interview is a good technique. If you address them simply as ‘you’ all the time, they may well feel that you have not got their name and this may discourage them from opening up.

Taking Notes

If you are interviewing several people in one day, it can be difficult to remember who is who. It is therefore useful to have someone who can take notes for you, Taking notes yourself can be difficult and it distracts you from communicating with the applicant. Some people find it helpful writing notes immediately after each interview. If you use the Support Service, you can ask us to do this if needs be.

Finishing the Interview

Consult your list of questions to make sure that you have all the information you want before you let the applicant go. Ask the applicant if there are any questions they would like to ask you. Once you have answered their questions, thank the person for their time and explain when they are likely to hear from you. Be as honest as possible and explain if you have more people to interview.

Making a Decision

Interviews only give you a short time to gain more information about applicants. Trusting your instincts can be very important, as you have to know if you will get on with them. Having another person there and consulting notes may help to clarify some of your impressions and feelings.

Remember that the Direct Payments Support Service can assist you to prepare for the interviews and can also be present during the interview to assist you.

References

Checking the references an applicant has given is very important because it is the only way you can be sure the information they have provided is correct. It is also valuable to have the opinion of another person who already knows the applicant and their suitability for the job.

Contacting the Referees

Each applicant should have given the names and addresses of two people who are prepared to give them a reference on their application form. They should also have stated whether you could take up references before the interview.
Taking up references before the interview is not normally a good idea because of the effort and time involved in getting references for everyone.

Requesting a Reference in Writing

Asking for a written reference is the best way of getting the most information. You can ask specific questions and also send a copy of the Job Description so you are sure that the referee (the person who is giving the reference) understands what the job involves. You could use a letter or set out a reference form for this purpose. It is a good idea to enclose a stamped addressed envelope when requesting a reference.
Example reference forms and letters are available from the Direct Payments Support Service.

Requesting a Reference by Telephone

Contacting the referees by telephone can be a quicker way of checking someone is suitable. Referees may also be prepared to say things over the phone they would not write down. However, this may not allow the referee to consider what the job involves.

You can request a reference by letter and then follow it up with a telephone call, thereby getting the best of both worlds!

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Fact Sheet 12

DAD Direct Payments Support Payroll Service

The Direct Payments Support Service runs a Payroll Service for people employing their own Personal Assistants.

How It Works

You contact the support service every 4 weeks to give the information on each personal assistant’s time sheet provided form (how many hours worked).

From this information, the support service prepares the 4 weekly payroll for each of your employees, including working out the tax and National Insurance deductions. The Support Service also works out any Statutory Sick Pay or Maternity Pay when required.

You need to keep your timesheets to send to the local authority as part of financial monitoring.

You need to check the payslip of each employee to check these are correct and contact the support service with any errors or difficulties.

You should send a cheque for the Inland Revenue amount to the support service, or alternatively we can support you to set up a system to pay HMRC online.

The support service can relieve you of some of the administration. If you wish to take up the payroll service, you should contact the Direct Payments Support Service and they will explain in more detail how the system works, give you the dates for ringing in hours and making payments to your personal assistants.

If you feel you would like to do your own payroll but need some support and guidance, the Support Service would be happy to assist you.

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