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/

National COVID-19 testing approach

The Coronavirus National Testing Programme has now expanded capacity to include anybody in England, as long as they are presenting with symptoms.

You can get a free NHS test if at least one of the following applies:

  • you have a high temperature
  • you have a new, continuous cough
  • you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed
  • you’ve been told to have a test before you go into hospital and you live in England
  • you’ve been asked to by a local authority
  • you’re taking part in a government pilot project

You can also get a test for someone you live with if they have symptoms.

If the above applies, please follow this link for your free NHS COVID-19 test:

https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Finally, for the most up-to-date information on testing and eligibility please visit the Government COVID-19 guidance page at:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested

Antibody Testing

Antibody testing is now available across England and is being provided free of charge to anyone employed in adult social care, including personal assistants who provide support to an adult.

What does the test do?

The antibody test is a voluntary blood test which detects antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if you have previously had the virus.

This test does not tell you if you currently have COVID-19. If you currently have symptoms or have been advised to take a COVID-19 test, please follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Why take the test?

Results of the antibody test will support academic research studies across the UK that will help us better understand COVID-19 and how it has spread. 

What does the test tell me?

An antibody test result can only tell you whether or not you have had the virus in the past and developed antibodies.

Our understanding of the body’s immune response to the virus is limited, and we do not currently know how long an antibody response lasts, nor whether having antibodies means a person cannot transmit the virus to others. Therefore, regardless of the result of an antibody test, individuals must continue to comply with government guidelines, including wearing PPE and social distancing.

How do I take the test?

To sign up for an antibody test, you will need to register on the online portal below.

https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-antibody-test

Please do not take a test if you currently have symptoms of COVID-19.

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 clinically vulnerable you were advised to take extra precautions during the peak of the pandemic in England. This is known as ‘shielding’.

The government is advising that you do not need to shield at the moment, unless you’re extremely clinically vulnerable, in which case you should limit your contact with others as much as possible.

This guidance is government advice and it’s your personal choice whether to follow it: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19 . However, for those who are not able to make a decision about this, a best interest decision will need to be made if government advice is not followed.

In the future, the government will only reintroduce formal shielding advice for a limited period of time in the very worst cases. This will be based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer. The government will write to you separately to inform you if you are advised to shield.

For more information, including which groups are classified as very high risk, click here.

Local COVID alert levels: what you need to know

Local COVID alert levels set out information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak in their area.

You can find out what you can and cannot do if you live, work or travel in each local COVID alert level here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-levels-what-you-need-to-know

Click here, and enter your postcode, for the coronavirus restrictions in your local area: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-local-restrictions

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

Delivernet - shop.delivernet.co.uk

Countrywide Healthcare - www.countrywidehealthcare.co.uk/get-in-touch  

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

Nexon - https://www.nexonhealthcare.co.uk/personal-protection-c15

Wightman and Parrish - https://store.w-p.co.uk/products/Gloves-Aprons-and-PPE

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

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.

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

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.

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.