Coronavirus advice and support

This information is your primary source of advice during COVID-19. You should still get employment support from your Insurance company however if their advice differs from below please contact Independent Lives.

Your Direct Payments Information and Advice team

Until further notice, so that we can continue to support you as best we can, the Information and Advice line will only be open from 9.00am - 4.30pm with all advisers working remotely. If you are unable to get through to an adviser, please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.

Please do not select to go through to another department as they will be unable to provide the information and advice you require.

The Payroll Team

Please note, if you use our payroll service, your team are working some of their hours in the evenings and weekends to ensure the service runs as smoothly as possible in these challenging times. They may therefor, not be able to answer the phone like you would normally expect during the day. The best thing for you to do is email [email protected] to provide your hours. Phone messages will be checked daily.

This will be reviewed weekly, and as soon as we are able to resume normal service we will.

Your Direct Payment

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and Continuing Health Care (CHC) will continue to pay your Direct Payment as usual (which means that you will continue to pay any assessed customer contribution into the Direct Payment account) and understand that the current situation means you may not be able to use it as usual.

  • There are also circumstances in which there may be additional costs to your care e.g.:
    You need additional care to cover staff absence/sickness or to cover contracted services that are not operational e.g. day care or school/college closure
  • You need more PPE than usual

If you need to make temporary changes to your support plan which cost more than your usual Direct Payment, please contact WSCC or CHC depending on who funds your Direct Payment to discuss.

Direct Payments cannot be used to buy food or for day to day living costs. If you are suffering hardship please contact WSCC or CHC to discuss.

Planning ahead

  • Consider whether you will be able to arrange care to keep yourself safe. Are your usual services or Personal Assistants still available? What will happen if not? If you need help with this, contact Independent Lives, WSCC or CHC.
  • It is important to ensure that you have a contingency plan in place, to include emergency PA cover if necessary. In light of increasing restrictions, your plan should be robust and appropriate for the foreseeable future. We can offer support with this if required. If you are unable to source alternative support you should contact your named social worker or social care team.
  • Make sure your contact details, other key information and your support plan is up to date so that any new carers have the information they need.
  • Keep a log of any spending that is different to your usual support plan, including receipts – you may need this to explain spending once the pandemic and immediate measures are over.
  • Make sure you know how to access latest guidance e.g. for PPE. See below for useful guidance.

If you need to make temporary changes to your support plan which cost more than your usual Direct Payment, please contact WSCC or CHC to discuss.

Technology Enabled Care

The new NHS and West Sussex County Council Technology Enabled Care (TEC) service is now live and provided by NRS Healthcare. It offers the use of convenient, accessible and cost-effective technological/digital products or services that allow people to:

  • monitor their own (or someone else’s) health and wellbeing
  • better self-manage their own health including long-term conditions
  • perform tasks they would otherwise be unable to do and/or increase the ease or safety with which tasks can be performed.

Key to this new service is that customers are supported to maximise their own personal strengths and resources to retain their independence. NRS Healthcare has the responsibility to assess each customer and provide the most appropriate service or product to meet those needs. 

The service provides for two types of customers:

Longer term need customers who are eligible under the Care Act 2014 and will be able to access TEC to meet their needs via council funding during the period in which they are deemed to be eligible.

Short term need customers who need TEC to support them to respond to a crisis or some other urgent or short term requirement (TEC will be free of charge to the customer for a maximum of 6 weeks), for example:

  • to support their timely discharge from hospital;
  • to avoid a hospital admission; and/or
  • where there is evidence that a referral will delay or reduce more costly input.

Customers receiving Direct Payments from the Council may be eligible to receive TEC free as part of their care support.  Please contact the West Sussex County Council CarePoint if you think that TEC could help you.

For more information about the service, look here: https://www.nrshealthcare.com/professionals/westsussex/pdf/Information_about_TEC_consumer_leaflet.pdf

For costs and other specific information, go here: https://www.nrstelecare.co.uk/westsussex/

Covid-19 vaccinations and testing

Unpaid carers have been added to the vaccination priority list at step 6, further details can be found by clicking here. We recommend that informal carers register with their GP as a carer.

Self-referral for social care worker vaccination, including PAs

To support healthcare workers and community based social care workers (including PAs) in priority group 2 to receive their Covid-19 vaccination, they have the option to book vaccination appointments through the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service. Staff can book online at: www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination. Staff should try online booking first but if this is not possible, they can phone 119 free of charge, 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week.

As part of the booking process, eligible staff need to self-declare they are a health or social care worker. Staff will be able to book this way until 28th February.

Employment law advice and guidance have helpfully been published by ILG Support and Fish Insurance:

COVID-19 testing approach for Personal Assistants

Weekly asymptomatic testing for PAs in England is available from 17th February.

For testing purposes, a PA is someone who is directly employed by an individual (or self-employed) to provide care and support. This care could include support in the home, or to go out into the community. All PAs who provide care that requires them to come within 2 metres of the person they support, and who support adults over the age of 18, are eligible for testing.

Full guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-for-personal-assistants

The Department of Health and Social Care are holding regular interactive webinars, taking place on:

  • Fri 19th Feb at 1pm
  • Thursday 26th Feb at 4pm
  • Wednesday 3rd March at 4pm

All PAs and their employers are invited to attend. You can join here:

https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1433378&tp_key=cc65e8ae2d

Recordings of each of the webinars will be available through the same link.

Flowcharts explaining when your staff can Return to Work following a COVID test

Public Health England have released flowcharts showing the process that your employee must follow in the event that they take a COVID-19 Test. These are below:

Asymptomatic Worker: Flowchart describing return to work following a COVID test

Symptomatic Worker: Flowchart describing return to work following a COVID test

Information on how to keep safe

How do I protect myself or people I support from Coronavirus?

The government has published new adult social care guidance to protect the most vulnerable against COVID-19.

The news story is available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-adult-social-care-guidance-to-protect-the-most-vulnerable-against-covid-19

Shielding guidance

If you’re extremely clinically vulnerable you are advised to take extra precautions to keep yourself safe. This is known as 'shielding'

You're advised to stay at home as much as possible.

You should only leave your home for medical appointments, exercise or if it's essential.

If you do go out, try to:

  • limit how long you spend outside your home
  • keep all contact with other people to a minimum
  • avoid busy areas

For the full guidance and advice on shielding, please visit the government shielding support page here.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

COVID-19 guidance on wearing the right PPE can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-people-receiving-direct-payments/coronavirus-covid-19-qa-for-people-receiving-a-personal-budget-or-personal-health-budget#wearing-ppe

Please note in particular the sections on

‘using PPE safely’ and ‘safe infection control in households’. The following website has useful information on how to manage hygiene www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/primary- care/infection-control/

The latest government guidance on COVID-19 infection prevention and control can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control/covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe

Where can I get PPE?

West Sussex County Council is now offering free PPE to Direct Payment customers who employ Personal Assistants and informal carers, among others.

This new offer has been made possible as more PPE supplies have been made available for the county council by Central Government. Now all those providing care who are not registered with the Care Quality Commission and who need to wear PPE due to Covid-19, can request this free of charge.

This is in line with the Government’s PPE Strategy to stabilise and build resilience and is available until the end of March 2021, after which time it will be reviewed.

All you need to do is register your interest with West Sussex County Council and complete a form confirming your required PPE supply.

For more information, and to complete the registration and order, please visit the dedicated PPE section on their website, here: www.westsussex.gov.uk/campaigns/emergency-and-free-ppe-requests/#2

If you need any further information, please contact West Sussex County Council at [email protected]

As always, we’re also available for advice and support at [email protected]

User fit testing of PPE

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure all staff who deliver aerosol generating procedures are trained to wear appropriate PPE, and that fit testing of equipment is taking place. Up until the 24th of July CHC has offered this training but post this date they are no longer able to provide this additional support.

FFP3, or P3 respirators, are recommended for use as respiratory protective equipment during aerosol generating procedures and require a fit test prior to use. Positive pressure hoods may also be used as an alternative and do not require a fit test.

The CCG training will cease 24/07/2020 after which training should be obtained from an independent fit to fit approved trainer at the employer’s expense.  If you need to you may apply for funding to cover the cost of this training for your Personal Assistants. If your carers are employed by an agency the agency is responsible for maintaining the necessary level of staff training.

A list of approved trainers can be found on the Fit2Fit website: https://www.fit2fit.org/

It is the employer’s responsibility under health and safety at work act 1974 that staff required to wear disposable FFP3 (or reusable P3 respirators) should have access to them and be fit tested to ensure they know how to wear them properly. Personal Assistants must understand how to create and check the seal every time it is worn. If a different brand or model of mask is purchased the user will need to be re-fit tested as not all masks fit in the same way.

An alternative to using a FFP3 or P3 is a positive pressure hood. These are reusable and suitable for all staff including those with facial hair. Positive pressure hood do not need to be fit tested and may offer an alternative to using FFP3 or P3 masks and should be ordered from suppliers. Please be aware there can be long lead in times for these.

The list of what constitutes an AGP during the Covid-19 outbreak can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/886668/COVID-19_Infection_prevention_and_control_guidance_complete.pdf

Employment Information

Are Personal Assistants key workers?

We now have confirmation that personal assistants (PAs) are included in the definition of a Health and Social Care key worker. This means they should be able to benefit from all temporary schemes open to key workers including continuing access to schools where relevant.

If being challenged they might need to carry a copy of their contract of employment and Job description, and or a letter from the employer. If you would like to see an example letter please call us. Government guidance says that front line workers do not need to carry an ID badge.

COVID-19 Social Care Staff Wellbeing

During this period of increased pressure and anxiety, it is essential that employers send a clear message that staff wellbeing matters. Research suggests that good organisational leadership and a supportive work culture can have a positive impact on the psychological wellbeing of these staff before, during and after the crisis.

The Local Government Authority and NHS England and Improvement have produced a comprehensive pack of wellbeing information and resources to help employers support the wellbeing of staff who may be working under exceptional pressure to do their jobs while at the same time dealing with their own personal situations and emotions.

https://local.gov.uk/our-support/workforce-and-hr-support/wellbeing/covid-19-social-care-staff-wellbeing

Frequently Asked Questions

My Personal Assistant has symptoms

If your Personal Assistant lets you know they have symptoms, as described by the government guidelines, a cough or temperature requiring them to self-isolate, or they are at risk themselves due an underlying health condition (click here for more information), if they earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (on average £120 per week over the past 8 weeks) then statutory sick pay would apply from day one.

www.gov.uk/guidance/rates-and-thresholds-for-employers-2020-to-2021#statutory-sick-pay-ssp

The statutory sick pay (general) (Coronavirus amendment) regulations 2020 came into force on Friday 13th March. SSP will now be payable to those self-isolating merely under Government guidance - no need for formal written notice to be given by medical officer as we have previously been advising. Definition of 'Persons deemed incapable of work' now includes:

(i) isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with Coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland(d) or Public Health Wales(e) and effective on 12th March 2020; and

(ii) by reason of that isolation is unable to work.

Note: this amendment is set to automatically expire 8 months unless otherwise removed by statute.

If they do not quality for SSP please sign post them to this link for possible financial support i.e. Universal Support or Employment Support.

Allowance: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses

My Personal Assistant isn’t ill but they don’t want to work

If the Personal Assistant self-isolates through choice, when current guidance does not require it, you should take into account these exceptional times and offer the opportunity to take annual leave or unpaid leave. However, where there are no grounds for why they have not turned up for work, they should not be paid, other than for any annual leave available to them.

You might want to seek advice from your insurance company to see if there is a disciplinary aspect to this.

My Personal Assistant becomes ill at work

If your Personal Assistant becomes ill at work, you should send them home for ten days from the onset of symptoms. If you would be unsafe without assistance and are unable to get anyone else to provide it, you and the Personal Assistant may decide that care should be continued in the short term ensuring use of PPE and social distancing. You should document this and the reasons you made this decision.

My Personal Assistant won’t self-isolate and I think they should

If your Personal Assistant is showing symptoms of COVID-19, or has told you that members of their household have symptoms but proposes to continue working, contact Independent Lives or WSCC/CHC for support in enforcing government Guidance.

You may want to talk to your insurance provider to see if there is a disciplinary aspect to this.

My Personal Assistant is in the very vulnerable (Shielded) group but wants to continue working – can I allow this?

Yes, you can. The Government have made recommendations for high-risk individuals to stay at home, but it is not mandatory.
If your employee continues to attend work, it would be wise to increase your hygiene and health and safety procedures so you are doing everything you can to prevent the risk of spreading infection between you. Make a written record of steps you have taken to protect each other.

Should I be asking my Personal Assistant to work from home?

If your Personal assistant undertakes support for you that can be done without direct contact, or where direct contact can be reduced e.g. meal preparation or social or emotional support and your Personal Assistant are confident that you will be adequately supported, you can agree to home working. You should record the reason for this and that this is for the duration of the current situation.

My Personal Assistant cannot work due to childcare

If your Personal Assistant’s children are unable to go to school or usual child care, they can apply for a reasonable amount of unpaid dependent’s leave to care for children.

They may also be able to take unpaid parental leave (up to four weeks per year per child) or you could ask to take annual leave.
Please see www.gov.uk/parental-leave

My Personal Assistant is stranded abroad

If your Personal assistant is stranded abroad because their borders are locked down, the Personal Assistant would not be paid as they have not turned up for work. If as an employer you are happy to extend their annual leave then this could be an option. There are no disciplinary aspects to this.

The government has completed a guide for employees or you could contact ACAS if you would like some independent advice or your Insurance Company.

www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees

There has been a website page set up called ‘Coronaheroes’ for people and families to help share useful links, practical tips and ideas that people who manage their direct payments have put in place for themselves and their PAs. There are webinars on employment, contingency planning, accessing care - all of the webinar recordings can be found at www.be-human.org.uk/coronaheroes

Can I use my Direct Payment differently?

You can change the support and/or services you receive but you must be careful to fulfil your responsibilities as an employer and the terms of any contract with an organisation you are purchasing care from. 

The government expects LAs and CCGs to continue to give you as much flexibility as possible in how you use your direct payment. What matters most is that you are able to use your direct payment in a way that allows you to stay safe and well, and continue to get the care and support you need.

Where possible, you should keep using your direct payment as agreed in your care and support plan. There may be situations where you need to organise your care and support in different ways as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Ideally, you will have agreed this with your usual contact person at your LA or CCG, but it is understood that this will not be possible every time.

Further details are available in the DP guidance available here.

Can I employ a temporary PA?

This may be a way of ensuring you get the care you need. The Home Office and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) have put temporary arrangements in place to provide DBS checks and fast-track emergency checks of the adults’ and children’s barred lists free-of-charge to PAs being recruited in connection with the care and treatment of COVID 19.

These arrangements will provide employers with the option to appoint new PAs to support adults and/or children, as long as the new PA is not barred and appropriate measures are put in place to manage the individual until the full DBS check is received.

If you wish to employ a close family member as a temporary PA, or if the planned temporary arrangements would cost more than your current Direct Payment, you must contact WSCC/CHC.