What a Personal Assistant can do for you
Personal Assistants have a variety of skills – some have nursing and first aid qualifications and others may be home helps or care support assistants. Some examples of the type of tasks a Personal Assistant might help with are:
- Help with personal care like washing and using the toilet
- Medical tasks like giving injections or changing a catheter
- Cooking and cleaning
- Driving or help with getting around
- Shopping, banking and paying bills
Obtaining A Personal Assistant
There are three basic arrangements for getting a Personal Assistant:
- You may have one provided directly by your local social services department, in which case everything is arranged for you.
- You may ask a care agency to find you a suitable Personal Assistant. This means you have to find and pay the care agency an agency fee. But you don’t take on any responsibilities as an employer because the Personal Assistant works for the agency. Or the care agency may introduce a suitable person to you on a permanent basis for a one-off fee.
- You may also employ a Personal Assistant directly. This gives you more choice and control over who cares for you and what tasks they do. But it also means you have legal responsibilities as an employer.
Getting started – help from your local authority
The first step towards getting the care you need is usually a health and social care assessment. This is done by the social services department of your local council. At the assessment, a specialist – usually an occupational therapist – will discuss your needs with you. They will make sure you are provided with the right support.
If the council agrees that you need care at home, you can usually receive direct payments. This means you can arrange and pay for your own care services instead of having them provided by the council. Once you know how much your direct payments will be, you can work out how much to pay a Personal Assistant. Or how many hours a week you would like them to work.
Your direct payments should meet your care needs. But if you want to use a more expensive care service or pay for extra hours, you can top them up yourself.
Finding a Personal Assistant through a care agency
All home care agencies in England are regulated and inspected regularly by the Care Quality Commission. This guarantees certain minimum standards of service. Home care agencies must also conduct police checks on all employees who will be working with disabled people.
The Care Quality Commission and the United Kingdom Home Care Association websites let you search for a home care agency in your local area. The Care Quality Commission website also contains inspection reports on individual home care agencies.
Writing a job description
Think about exactly what help you need before you employ someone or sign a contract with an agency. It may be helpful to think about a typical day for you, and write a job description for your Personal Assistant. This should include:
- A list of all the tasks you may need help with
- An estimate of the number of hours and days you will need the person to work
- Any particular skills or qualifications your care worker must have – for example, a nursing qualification or a full driving licence
A detailed job description can help care agencies select a suitable Personal Assistant for you.
Finding a Personal Assistant Yourself
Support from disability organisations
Some disability organisations and charities may be able to help with the process of employing a carer. The National Centre for Independent Living website contains a guide to employing a personal assistant, which you may find useful.
Advertising the job
You can place job advertisements in your local Jobcentre for free. Local shops, supermarkets and voluntary organisations may also have noticeboards where you can place job advertisements.
Job advertisements should be brief and state:
- the type of work involved
- working hours
- rate of pay
- your contact details
- the general area in which you live
For safety reasons, its best to give a mobile phone number or box number in your advertisement, rather than your address or home phone number.
Your responsibilities if you employ a carer directly
If you employ a carer directly, you will take on certain responsibilities as an employer. This is the case regardless of whether you employ someone for a few hours a week or full-time.
Conducting Job interviews
Once you have received any job applications, select the people you would like to interview for the job. You can ask a friend or relative to attend the interviews, especially if they are taking place in your own home. Before the interviews, you should prepare a list of questions that cover the key aspects of the job.
References and police checks
When you have decided who to offer the job to, you are responsible for checking that they are suitable. You should always ask for – and check – at least two references, including one from someone they have cared for previously. Individual employers do not have to request a police check on any potential employee but we strongly advise you to do this. You’ll need to ask your local council’s social services, care agency or a local voluntary organisation to ask for this information from the Criminal Records Bureau for you. There may be a charge for this service.
As an employer you may be responsible for deducting tax and National Insurance from your employee’s wages. You will then need to pay them to HM Revenue & Customs together with your employer’s National Insurance contribution. Whether you will have to do this depends on how much your employee earns.
Your local social services department may be able to help you with the paperwork for HM Revenue & Customs.
Paying your carer
You must pay your carer at least the National Minimum Wage.
If your carer lives with you, there are special rules for calculating the value of the accommodation you provide. You can count this amount as part of your employee’s pay, and it counts towards the National Minimum Wage.
Working hours, time off, sick pay and holiday pay
As an employee, your carer or personal assistant has an entitlement to:
- rest breaks
- a maximum number of working hours in any week
- holiday pay
- sick pay (in most cases)
You can find out more about your responsibilities for providing these things in the ’employment’ section of Directgov.
As an employer, you must take out:
- Employer’s Liability Insurance
- Public Liability Insurance
Employer’s Liability Insurance covers you if your carer has an accident while working for you, in cases where you might be held responsible.
Public Liability Insurance covers you for any damage or injury you or your carer cause to anyone else while your carer is working for you.
You can sometimes include Employer’s Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance in a comprehensive household insurance policy.
Your local council must include the cost of Employer’s Liability Insurance if you’re getting direct payments to pay for your care.
You can find out more about both types of liability insurance on the Business Link website.
Creating a Written Statement Of Employment
If you employ your carer for one month or more you must give them a written statement of the terms and conditions of their employment. You must do this within two months of them starting work for you. The statement must include:
- hours of work
- holiday entitlement
- sick pay arrangements
- notice periods
- information about disciplinary and grievance procedures
There is an interactive tool available on the Business Link website to help you create a written statement of employment.