Direct payments â employing a family member
If a person is getting a Direct Payment to pay for care they may decide to employ someone they already know, such as a family member or friend. There are rules around who you can and cannot employ using a Direct Payment. The basic rule is that
- you cannot normally use the direct payment to pay a family member who is living with the person who needs care.
- but if the family member is not living with the person it is possible
In Scotland the rules are stricter and you cannot normally use a Direct Payment to pay any relative regardless of where they live.
The key phrase here is ânormallyâ. In exceptional circumstances it may be possible for the direct payment to be used to pay a relative who lives with them. In these cases you must give clear and specific reasons why only that family member can carry out the care. Religious reasons, language difficulties or specific health problems, may be some of the reasons why âexceptional circumstancesâ apply. There will also be regional variations - some local authorities have a relaxed approach to the rules around exceptional circumstances, others interpret them more strictly.
Pros and cons
A Carers UK survey of carers on direct payments showed that three out of four employed a friend or someone already known to the person who receives care â two out of five employed a family member.
There are clear advantages to employing someone who is already known to the person needing care particularly if the person is distressed at the idea of being looked after by âstrangersâ. This can be especially valuable with certain conditions such as mental illness, learning disability or dementia.
However everyone concerned needs to consider carefully all the issues and how it might affect family relationships. The person receiving the Direct Payment will become the official employer of that person. This changes what was an informal family arrangement into a formal legal contract. Aside from the legal responsibilities there is a further âpsychologicalâ element of becoming the employer of your own relative. If the employment relationship breaks down how will that affect your family relationship? How does it affect other members of the immediate family?
If the new âemployeeâ has previously been an unpaid carer then they could find this changes their status. Any payments made to them in this way will now be treated as âearningsâ and are taken into account for any means tested benefits they receive (for example Carerâs Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits) so they could lose benefits. Another consequence is that they may no longer be classed as an unpaid family carer by social services and could risk losing access to other support services.
Employing a relative with your Direct Payment has the potential to deliver positive outcomes - quality care from someone who is known and trusted, a better financial reward for the carer. However, everyone concerned should carefully think through the implications before going ahead.