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Working as a Personal Assistant FAQ

What is a Personal Assistant?

Personal assistants (PA’s) are currently not regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) even if they are providing intimate personal care.   

A Personal Assistant (also known as a PA) is employed by someone who needs social care, either because of their age or disability, to enable them to live as independently as possible. A PA is not employed by an independent carer/enablers agency, they work independently. Some PA’s work on a 'self-employed' basis, while others are directly employed by the individual who needs the care.  

Personal assistants can offer a wide range of care and support services depending on their experience.  If you decide to work as a PA it is a shared responsibility between yourself and the person you work with to ensure you have the right skills for the work you undertake.  

Personal assistants who are employed directly by the cared for person or genuinely self-employed are not currently regulated by the CQC, even if they are providing personal care. However, groups of personal assistants who have set themselves up to work as an agency, may find themselves falling foul of CQC regulations. For more information visit https://oacp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CQC-Exemption-Regulated-Activity.pdf

What information do I need to share about myself? 

We recommend that you have the following items ready to share with the person that you are going to be supporting:   

  • any training and qualifications you may have to the people you support. 
  • HMRC confirmation if you are registered as self-employed 
  • proof of public liability insurance if you are self-employed 
  • it is recommended that you have a DBS check via the Disclosure Barring Service completed to show you are free from criminal convictions.   
  • it is important that you have at least 2 referees available able and willing to vouch for your character or the care you have previously offered. 

You may want to create a folder with all this information included which you can show to the person. This will help to establish you as a credible and professional carer. 

I would like to be self-employed - what does this mean/what do I need to do? 

If you decide to become self-employed you will normally work for more than one client. You will be able to set the rate you charge per hour, and the times you are prepared to work. You are responsible for declaring you own income to HMRC and paying any national insurance contributions. 

As a self-employed individual you are 'contracting' with the person to supply service. 

It is strongly advisable for you to put in place a Service Agreement Contract which you and your client sign.  This agreement should set out the type of support you agree to supply and when you are available to provide your service. It should also show the rate of pay required and can include further details such as any notice period you require and that you are responsible your your own tax and national insurance contribution. Failure to put in place such an agreement could lead to misunderstandings regarding matters such as the support that you are expected to provide or the sums that you are to be paid.  

You will need to have your own public liability insurance before you work with any clients. 

As a self-employed worker, you are not entitled to any holiday pay, sick pay or redundancy. You are also not usually entitled to any Notice period unless you have this explicitly agreed in writing as part of a service agreement contract. Keeping good records of such agreements is good practice, as it is helpful to have things written down if there are ever any disputes.  

As a self-employed PA you are also within your rights to send in another self-employed PA to carry out you work for you in your absence. However, due to the nature of the work it is essential you agree this with the person you support or their representative beforehand and aim to introduce your colleague to the person prior to any care starting.   The person may not feel comfortable with a replacement and may prefer for a family member or friend to offer short term help in your absence. 

You need to supply a clear invoice to for payment of your services.  This should include your name, address/contact telephone number and where payment should be made.  The invoice should state the dates services were provided and the total payment due 

For HMRC purposes you should retain copies of the invoices for 7 years. 

How do I register as self-employed? 

If you decide you would like to work on a self-employed basis you will need to register with HMRC and declare all the income you receive. 

More information at https://www.gov.uk/working-for-yourself  

This site offers a range of information and guidance about working on a self-employed basis. 

You may be able to claim tax relief on some of the expenses i.e. clothing, hygiene gloves/aprons, Petrol etc. Visit https://www.gov.uk/income-tax-reliefs for more information and to make a claim. 

If individuals and their employers have not paid tax or contributions correctly they may lose entitlement to benefits and may be liable to pay penalties if their employment status is wrong. 

If the person you support or their representative receives a Personal Budget or Direct Payment you may be asked to supply documentary proof that you are actually registered with HMRC as self-employed.  This is because they need to demonstrate they are using government funding wisely and is part of their agreement. 

If you are unsure whether you qualify as self-employed, the following tool may be able to assist you to decide for the purposes of determining your liability for tax: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/check-employment-status-for-tax/setup

Do I need insurance?

If you work on a self-employed basis it is essential that you hold public liability insurance which can be obtained from numerous insurers and generally costs around £100 per year 

If you are employed it is a legal responsibility of your employer to ensure there is employers liability in place for your work.  You need to check this with your employer. 

I am employed, should I have an employment contact? 

If you are employed, your employer (usually the cared for person) should have issued you with a contract of employment which agrees the terms and conditions of your employment, your entitlement to annual leave, sick pay, your rate of pay etc. It is important to have this is in place so you both know your employment relationship. 

Keeping good records of such agreements is good practice – it is helpful to have things written down if there are ever any queries or disputes.  

Am I entitled to a workplace pension? 

If you are working on a self-employed basis you will be expected to make your own arrangements regarding a pension scheme. 

If you are employed it is a legal responsibility of your employer (usually the cared for person) to consider the workplace pension and they are usually guided and supported in this via their payroll provider. 

You should be enrolled in a workplace pension if you are employed,  

  • are aged between 22 and the State Pension age 
  • earn at least £10,000 a year 
  • work in the UK 

Find out more at https://www.gov.uk/workplace-pensions-employers 

How much should I be paid? 

If you are self-employed you are able to set a rate of pay which you deem is fair and reasonable for the services you provide.  It is always helpful and maximises your work opportunities if there is some flexibility around your hourly rate to allow for some negotiation. 

If you are employed, by law you must be paid the National Minimum Wage – this is for all hours you work (day and night).  

The current rates are for the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage are available at https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates  The rates change every April. 

If the person you are due to work with is funding their care via Direct Payments the rate set is higher than this and usually £12.00 per hour (gross hourly rate).  The rate paid by Devon County Council includes allowances to cover holiday pay, Employers National Insurance contributions as required, pension contributions and any other obligations such as sick pay.  You will need to check with the employer/the person using your services to confirm the hourly rate they are able to pay. 

What happens about payment for petrol if I take my client out in my car? 

You will need to check you are insured under your car insurance policy to carry a business passenger in your car. You will need to agree a mileage rate for the trip with your client and request payment in the usual way.

If the person you support receives a Direct Payment budget, they will usually need to pay for mileage on a private basis direct to you. 

How will I be paid if I know the person receives a budget from the local authority? 

Most people who receive a Personal Budget or Direct Payment will have been issued with a Devon Card bank account and all will have been seen by their Independent Living Advisor from Direct Payments. 

A Devon Card is a bank account set up for people who receive funding from Devon County Council Direct Payments or NHS Personal Health Budget Team to receive funding and pay for their care and support service.   They access their account via on line or telephone banking options and make payments direct to your bank account. 

Please be aware any service which is funded by the Local Authority or the NHS cannot support cash payments. 

If the person you support or their representative has any problems with their account they can contact Devon County Council Direct Payment Team 0345 1551 007 and ask to speak with their independent Living Advisor. 

What if I need special training to assist a client?

The person you support or their representative should ensure you have the right skills to support them.  However, if you feel you require further training or guidance regarding specific care tasks you must discuss this with them. 

Never enter into an unsafe practice which could lead you or your client into harm accident or injury. 

If your client has a professional therapist or a community nursing team involved they may also be able to offer guidance and advice about specific care tasks.  

If you are a self-employed worker you are responsible for managing your training needs and there are various companies who can offer help with this. 

If you are employed you need to speak with your employer about your training needs.  

There may be funding available via a Skills for Care Grant which can be accessed by your employer.  For more information your employer can visit https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Learning-development/Funding/Individual-employer-funding/Individual-employer-funding.aspx

There are also various private training agencies who will work with your employer and you to draw up a training plan and apply for funding, many of these advertise on line. 

If the person you support receives funding for their care they can speak with their Independent Living advisor about how the training needs can be met via the Direct Payment Team 0345 155 1007 

If I decide to stop working with a client how much notice shall I give?

You will need to refer to your contract of employment or service agreement if there is either in place.  It is always essential to remember that the person you support has care needs and may need time to make alternative care arrangements.   

If you are concerned the person may be unsupported or placed at risk please seek their agreement to contact Care Direct on 0345 155 1007 or encourage them to do so. 

My client has 24 hour care needs.  How many hours should I be asked to work? 

The maximum hours anyone should legally be asked to work is directed by the Working Time Regulations (WTR).  

The daily and weekly rest break elements of the WTRs still apply as listed below; 

  • 20 min rest break after 6 hours work 
  • 11 hour rest break between the end of the first shift and start of the next  
  • a full 24 hour rest break per 7 day reference period (or 48 hour rest break per 14 day reference period) 

For more information visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/workingtimedirective.htm  

What happens if things go wrong? 

If the relationship is not working then you can take steps to change it.  The main issue is to communicate with your employer or the person you support at the earliest opportunity. 

If an employment related dispute or disagreement arises the first thing to do is to be honest, open and discuss it directly with the person you work with.  It maybe they are not aware there is a problem or there has been a misunderstanding.  However, if this does not address the issue, you may have additional concerns, or feel you have been treated unfairly, seek advice from your liability insurer about what to do next. 

You can also contact ACAS for independent employment related advice and guidance http://www.acas.org.uk  

If you are self-employed it may be simply a case of advising you client you are no longer able to support them and agree a mutually acceptable end date for the support.   

If you feel that a client is at risk at of harm, neglect or abuse 

  • speak to the person, a trusted family member or friend, or any professional involved in their care straight away.
  • if the budget is funded by Devon County Council – contact the Direct Payment Team via Care Direct and ask to speak with your Independent Living Advisor 
  • you can also contact Adult Safeguarding via Care Direct 0345 155 1007 or at https://new.devon.gov.uk/devonsafeguardingadultsboard/  
  • if you or the person you support feel threatened or that either of you have been a victim of a crime contact the Police on the 999 emergency line if you feel there is in immediate danger or 111 to report/discuss an incident 

Parking Permits

A special permit allows social care staff, independent living advisors, care workers, personal assistants in social care, employees of Devon Carers, and health staff to park when carrying out duties while visiting people supported in their own homes.

Find out more at: https://new.devon.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/parking/parking-permits/exemptions-careworkers/

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