If you have increasing health problems and are finding it harder to rely on family and friends to help then it may be time to start thinking about employing your own carer or Personal Assistant (PA). This may sound like a very scary and expensive thing but whilst it is potentially complicated, it is not as bad as most people would think it is. If you need help, there are many sources of funding for carers depending on your exact medical and financial circumstances via either the NHS or your local council.
NHS, Continuing Health Care and Personal Health Budgets
If you are coming out of hospital or have very severe complex long-term health needs, then you might be eligible for NHS continuing health care. It is free care funded by the NHS either at home or within a nursing home, including nursing home fees. Your eligibility for CHC care will be assessed and if you qualify, you can either rely on the CHC team to arrange and provide care via an Agency for you or alternatively, request a Personal Health Budget, which can be used for a wide range of things, including employing a Personal Assistant.
If you do not qualify for NHS care, it is up to your local authority to provide the support you need. Get in touch with your local authority to arrange for a Community care assessment. If you need care urgently, emergency care can be arranged whilst you wait for the assessment process to be completed. Social care is means tested and depending on your financial status, you may either be asked to contribute or cover all the costs of the care you need.
A social worker from the local authority will carry out the community care assessment. This assessment will determine how many hours a week of support you are assessed as needing, whether this should be funded solely by the local authority or, if you have some health needs but not extensive enough to qualify for CHC, whether it will be funded with a joint package from the local authority and the NHS as well as how much of the package you will be expected to pay for yourself.
The financial assessment will not take into account disability related payments such as DLA or PIP. As a very general rule of thumb you will not pay for the funding if you and your partner make less than £14,000 a year; you will pay some if you make between £14,000 and £23,000 and you can expect to pay most or all of the cost if you make over £23,000. This is very generalised and can vary considerably depending on where you live and which factors are included in the local assessment process. It is worth going through the process even if you think you have no chance of getting funding – there are extras like insurance that are given to all employers which do make it worthwhile and can save you some money.
Once your financial assessment is finished you should have a good idea about how many hours you will be funded for each week and how much this will cost you. At this point you’ll need to fill in a lot of legal paperwork and set up a direct payment (DP) account with a third part provider who will act as accountants. The local authority will start making monthly (usually) payments into this third party bank account and you will be free to move on to the next part of the process – finding a PA.
Personal Budgets are currently being rolled out across the country, which provides more freedom of choice and more personal control over the budget, enquire about what options are available to you within your local area.
Getting funding for your own PA can be a very long and involved process with a lot of local rules and paperwork, but it is worth persevering if you need longterm support and can no longer manage independently. If you do not feel up to the process yourself it is possible to get a friend or family member to be your representative or to there are advocacy services such as Swann which might be able to help.