Trust Hourly Rate Uplifts – What do Direct Payment users need to consider?

We were delighted to see 4 of the 5 Health and Social Care Trusts in NI have now put up their Self Directed Support (SDS) hourly rate to £13.18 and backdated the uplift to April of this year. Although this is welcome news, for some, it can generate a little confusion in that many service users/employers believe that any increase must automatically be passed on to their Personal Assistants as a pay rise. This is not the case.

Under SDS, as long as PA employers are paying their staff the National Living Wage, which is currently £8.91 gross per hour (for workers 23 years of age or older), then there is no obligation to pay a higher rate. It’s worth noting, however, that this minimum amount will rise to £9.50 in April 2022, therefore all PA employers should take this into account when setting their new budgets.

There are a number of other factors PA employers should take into consideration when deciding on how much they should pay their staff. These include the following –

· level of skills required to do the job (for example, does the PA need to undergo a high level of training in order to do their job)

· level of responsibility (for example, PA work can range from accompanying someone who does not have complex support needs to places of interest, to assisting a parent to care for an extremely sick or disabled child – which carries a much higher level of responsibility)

· how accessible their place of work is (for example, does the person in receipt of support live in an area difficult to travel to)

· how long are the PA’s shifts (for example, if shift patterns are less than 2 hours, is the wage high enough to attract a worker to travel to their place of work and maintain regular availability)

As long as the above factors have been taken into consideration, under SDS, any remaining money can be saved and used in other ways, as long as it has been agreed IN ADVANCE and IN WRITING by their local HSC Trust. This is all part of the SDS process, as outlined in the Health and Social Care Board’s “Self Directed Support – the user guide”.

One of the key components of SDS is the use of a Support Plan, which gives the individual in receipt of support a strong voice in the planning of how their Direct Payment should be used. If the person in receipt of support is a very young child or has difficulty in expressing their wishes due to having other complex support needs or a severe illness, then others (family & friends) who know them well, can contribute to the building of the Support Plan on their behalf. The details of what needs to go into a Support Plan are outlined across pages 5 and 6 of the above booklet.

Many people ask, other than paying staff, what else they can spend their Direct Payment on. This is where service users get to be creative in how they might achieve the outcomes agreed with their HSC Trust. On page 7 of the above booklet, it outlines what you cannot spend your funding on. Any ideas that could help a Trust service user to achieve the level of choice and control (independence) they want, can and should be discussed with their Trust Social Worker. As long as none of the ideas fall into any of those 5 categories listed on page 7, the Trust should consider the idea. It is important to remember, that all spending MUST be approved in writing by the Social Worker’s Team Leader, prior to any spending taking place.

Last, but by no means least, those who are managing Direct Payment accounts, should always remain aware of “hidden” employer costs, before they commit to spending any uplift in money

from their HSC Trust on increasing wages, backdating wage increases, staff overtime, or any other services or items. These are amounts easily forgotten or overlooked when considering what money is actually available to spend on any new costs.

A CILNI Checklist explaining each of these costs is downloadable from our website View here

Should you need any assistance in understanding some of the costs outlined in the factsheet and want to know if they apply to you, you should speak to one of our Independent Living Advisers.