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. Your usual services or Personal Assistants be available? What will happen if not? If you need help with this, contact Independent Lives or your named worker or relevant 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.

National COVID-19 testing approach for PAs

The Coronavirus National Testing Programme has now expanded capacity to test other front line workers who are having to self-isolate due to having coronavirus-like symptoms or because a member of their household has symptoms.

This expansion includes all personal assistants across both health and social care, who meet the criteria set out above.

More detailed information on the types of workers who may now be eligible for testing can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-get-tested

Any of your PAs who think they are eligible and need to be tested are being instructed to speak to you as their employer first. If your PA is eligible for testing, you, as the employer, will need to complete a ‘Confirmation of employment and eligibility for testing-letter of ID’, and forward this, along with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation, to your PA. Your PA will then be able to register themselves for a test at the link provided within the invitation.

The document and PowerPoint can be downloaded below:

Confirmation of employment and eligibility for testing-letter of ID

COVID-19 - testing for PAs presentation

If you have any queries about completing this document, or have any other questions, please contact us at [email protected]

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

What is Shielding?

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.

We are strongly advising people with serious underlying health conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from Coronavirus (COVID-19) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.

More information, including which groups are classified as very high risk, here.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Public Health England have produced a fantastic visual guide to PPE which you can find here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/905630/PHE_illustrative_PPE_guide_for_community_and_social_care_settings_17b.pdf

New COVID-19 guidance on residential care, supported living and home care is available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance

Please note in particular the sections on 'what to do when a resident or someone you are supporting has COVID-19' and the following website has useful information on how to manage hygiene https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/primary-care/infection-control/

The latest government guidance on PPE 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?

Personal assistants are critical front-line key workers delivering personal care. The Public Health England guidance, updated on 03 May 2020 recognises the importance that PAs are accessing the right PPE.

Due to demand for PPE nationally, you may find it difficult to source appropriate PPE in the market and the supply chains are very stretched. Please see below for a list of suppliers we are aware of.

If your PAs are providing care in circumstances described in the PHE guidance that recommends the use of PPE and as an employer you have been unable to source what you need or your stocks are running critically low; then please contact us at [email protected] in the first instance.

Independent Lives will be your first point of contact and will escalate your request for PPE directly to WSCC, who may be able to support you with a limited emergency supply of PPE from the Local Resilience Forum stock. This includes people with a personal health budget.

Before we can escalate your request we will need to establish that your PAs do need to use PPE in accordance with the PHE guidance. When you contact us we will ask you about your situation, your need for PPE and if you meet the criteria for support; we will then pass on the request. If a supply of PPE is available then delivery will be made directly and will usually occur within 24 to 48 hours from the time that the request is made.

If due to current guidelines your PAs are required to use FFP3 type masks, as part of your responsibility to provide the correct PPE as an employer, it is vital that a fit test is completed before these are issued.

PPE Suppliers - please note we cannot guarantee stock

Dementia Signs: https://www.dementiasigns.co.uk/covid-19/

Nexon Hygiene: https://www.nexonhygiene.co.uk/personal-protection-c5/covid-19-c2217

Gompels:          https://www.gompels.co.uk/

Staples:            https://www.staples.co.uk/lists/nonbrowseskusset?SkusetId=28164&cm_sp=W20_06_401_02UK-_-u_ad_img_href

Trusted PPE:      https://trustedppe.co.uk/collections

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

National COVID-19 testing approach for personal assistants

The Coronavirus National Testing Programme has now expanded capacity to test personal assistants, even if they are currently asymptomatic.

Individuals with PHBs in place are being classed as ‘patients’ so can also be tested through the self-referral process.

More detailed information on the types of workers who may now be eligible for testing can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-get-tested

Any of your PAs who think they are eligible and need to be tested are being instructed to speak to you as their employer first.

If your PA is eligible for testing, you, as the employer, will need to complete a ‘Confirmation of employment and eligibility for testing-letter of ID’, and forward this, along with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation, to your PA. Your PA will then be able to register themselves for a test at the link provided within the invitation.

The document and PowerPoint can be found on our website.

Confirmation of employment and eligibility for testing-letter of ID: https://www.independentlives.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=0fa22d5a-9c00-4cd1-bcb6-c6bc361a9bc0

COVID-19 - testing for PAs presentation:

https://www.independentlives.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=f464fb95-8dfb-4ec0-9140-605adbee5fe97

If you have any queries about completing this document, or have any other questions, please contact us at [email protected]

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.

Changes to shielding guidance

From 1st August, people who have been shielding can return to work, as long as the workplace is COVID-secure. This will only change if the transmission of COVID-19 in the community starts to rise significantly.

You and your PAs may have been affected by shielding. As Government guidance changes to reflect the easing of lockdown measures, it is now expected that any of your PAs that have been paid, but not able to deliver care to you whilst you and/or your families have been shielding, now begin to return to their work on your care package.

You may feel understandably anxious about this, so your care package may be reintroduced gradually, with an expectation that PAs will be back in post fully by the end of August 2020.

In circumstances where family members have been paid to provide care as part of your care package, in place of PAs, the arrangement should be reduced where possible and eventually cease by 1st September 2020.

If you have particular circumstances that you wish to discuss further, please contact your case manager (if you are a CHC customer) or your social worker (if you are a WSCC customer). If you don’t have a social worker or an allocated team, please contact CarePoint on 01243 642121.

For more advice and information please view our website here: https://www.independentlives.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=5adf16f5-23f7-496b-a583-c6de438487d0

Test and Trace

You should keep a temporary record of the shift patterns of your PAs for 21 days. If NHS Test and Trace ask for this data, you should provide it to them. This could help contain clusters or outbreaks.

WSCC and CHC advice

PA employers can continue to pay their PAs their normal wages where they are laying them off, if the person receiving care is shielding or if the family need to self-isolate (as per the Governments guidance on shielding & isolation) and are following the guidance relating to this.

If PAs are being laid off when there has not been medical advice to self- isolate or Shield; or the customer or other members of the household are regularly going out despite having had advice that they are in the shielded group, agreement would be given for additional funding only in exceptional circumstances.

For PAs on variable hours or casual contracts, the payroll service will calculate normal pay on an average of the hours worked over the last 12 weeks. WSCC/CHC is not in a position to confirm the duration of these payments at present, but this will be clarified in future guidance.

  • If you are asked for a payment by an organisation who isn’t able to offer their usual service, and they are offering an alternative which you feel is inadequate to your needs at this time, please contact WSCC/CHC for advice
  • If you wish to re-direct your DP for other uses to meet need given changed circumstances, you need to contact WSCC/CHC to agree – and if this is not possible, should make urgent interim arrangements for a few weeks pending contact with your social worker or allocated team.
  • If the changes you wish to make will result in a need for an increased payment, you must contact WSCC/CHC for agreement before setting up new arrangements.

The government guidance for people receiving Direct Payments can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-people-receiving-direct-payments

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.

This includes the purchase of software or digital resources that could meet your eligible needs and the outcomes in your support plan. It could also include purchase of play equipment for children; if proposed costs are higher than £250, please contact your social worker.

Any long term commitments or changes to your support plan should be discussed with WSCC or CHC team, who must also be contacted if you are considering changes that will cost more or employing a close family member as a Personal Assistant.

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.