5. Personal Assistants (PA)
5.1 Flexibility to employ family members
Under the Self-directed Support (Direct Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 2014 an individual can employ a close relative or family member as a PA, with agreement from the Local Authority. This flexibility is important as it provides the opportunity for such arrangements where it is the best solution to meet the personal outcomes and needs of the individual. This is in line with the general principles and intentions behind SDS, which are to provide creative and effective solutions for those receiving social care support.
Whether as a PA or unpaid carer, professional judgement should inform all decision making in relation to appropriateness of family members being employed as PAs. Decisions should be taken on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the family member's health, their capacity and willingness to provide the required care support, and other welfare and wellbeing factors. Adult Support and Protection concerns involving individuals or family members should always be taken into consideration. There should be no blanket policy to refuse permission to employ a family member as a PA. Decisions to refuse should only be based on a reason specific to the individual case.
Family members may also be employed as a temporary PA. The individual in receipt of this support should ensure that there is a clear procedure for the original, or a new, PA to resume or start their role when possible. The family member employed to provide replacement care should understand this arrangement may be temporary.
If the family member is acting as Power of Attorney or Guardian and managing a Direct Payment, it is prohibited under the Regulation 9 of the Direct Payment regulations for them to be employed as a PA for the person who granted the Power of Attorney or is subject to the Guardianship order.
5.2 Ensuring fairness and equity for the PA workforce
PAs should have access to entitlements and support that other social care workers have, including Fair Work practices and access to support as essential key workers. The PA Employer's Handbook is a tool that provides details on how to embed quality assurance as an employer when employing PAs using Option 1 – Direct Payment. The letter Coronavirus (COVID-19) - key workers definition and status from Scottish Government and COSLA on 30th March 2020 that confirms PAs have key worker status. Further support and advice for PAs can be found at Personal Assistant Network Scotland.
Where proof of identity is perceived to be an issue, the employer, the Local Authority or an advice organisation can write a letter as proof of a PAs employment. A template letter can be found in Appendix 1 and can be adapted to suit individual circumstances.
Option 1 – Direct Payment budgets must enable the PA employer to pay at least £10.02 per hour from December 2021 and £10.50 per hour from April 2022
From 1st December 2021, the rate of pay increased from the Real Living Wage to £10.02 per hour for adult social care workers who work within the third and independent sectors, including Personal Assistants. Payments will be made via the Local Authority, by applying a 5.47% uplift to an agreed percentage of the contract value. The percentage for SDS Option 1 budgets are below:
- 89% of SDS Option 1 budgets
From April 2022, the minimum hourly rate for these adult social care workers will increase to £10.50 per hour. Payments will be made via the Local Authority, by applying a 4.79% uplift to an agreed percentage of the contract value. The national weightings for the £10.50ph uplift have been increased to take into consideration the increase in employer National Insurance Contributions and so the revised percentage is below:
- 90% of SDS Option 1 budgets
5.3 Social care staff support fund
The Scottish Government has established the Social Care Staff Support Fund to ensure that social care workers, including PAs, receive their expected income if they are ill or self-isolating in line with public health guidance, as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The link above also includes further information relating to eligibility and criteria.
PA employers are asked to pay eligible staff who meet all of the Social Care Staff Support Fund criteria their normal pay should the PA be ill with confirmed or suspected Coronavirus (COVID-19), or self-isolating in line with public health guidance. The Fund criteria are set out in the information on the Scottish Government website Coronavirus (COVID-19): social care staff support fund guidance.
Where a PA employer has paid out a sum from a Direct Payment in line with this purpose, the Local Authority should increase the Direct Payment by the relevant amount.
If a PA needs to self-isolate due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and where contingency arrangements are exhausted, the employer may need to ask the Local Authority for additional funding for replacement care and support for the duration of the PA's period of self-isolation.
5.4 Death in service
The Coronavirus (COVID-19): social care worker death in service payment scheme was introduced following the high risk workers are exposed to while performing frontline duties and providing care to Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.
The Scheme recognises the vital contribution of social care workers, including PAs, in tackling the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A named survivor of a social care worker who has died in service as a result of, or the suspected result of, contracting Coronavirus (COVID-19) at work, may wish to apply for this payment. Details on eligibility and how to apply are provided in the link above.
5.5 Maximising the capacity of the PA workforce
The PA workforce is of critical importance to social care and is regarded by Scottish Government to be a key part of the social care workforce. There are currently approximately 5,000 PAs who applied for the thank you payment working in this sector, and it is a priority to retain them throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Where a PA employer is self-isolating or following additional protection levels advice, tasks that do not involve entering the house such as shopping and collecting medication, can still be undertaken by the PA.
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