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Using your Direct Payment to buy support from services and organisations

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.

Advantages

You can pick an agency of your choice and meet with them before you agree to them supporting you.
An agency worker will attend at the times you specify, if the agency worker happens to be off sick or takes some holiday the agency will arrange someone else to attend.
The agency has all of the responsibilities of being the employer, rather than you employing a support worker.
There are different ways you can pay an agency, by cheque or electronic transfer. Either way an agency should provide you with an invoice of support you have received.
If something goes wrong say for example a support worker doesn’t turn up or you don’t get on with someone, you can call their office to talk things through.

Disadvantages

You have to trust the agencies decision on the suitability of a worker.
You don’t always get the same person supporting you. This can be difficult especially where personal care is involved.
Agency workers often have more than one person to support throughout the day therefore you may feel rushed because they have to get to their next service user.
Agency workers are sometimes limited with the duties they can carry out for you. For example some agency workers would not be able to work up a height i.e. to change a light bulb.
Agency rates can be high, often charging the full direct payment rate and enhanced rates on a weekend. Any expenses would be charged in addition to the hourly rate such as mileage.
An agency can get your bill incorrect, it is advised that you check through all of your invoices.

What you need to check

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
• Has the staff undertaken a Disclosure and Barring (DBS) check and other pre-employment 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 visit the Care Agencies list.

Registered Charity No. 1125848. Company No. 6688735

©2015 Darlington Association on Disability