Direct Payments Scheme Users Falling Foul Employement Law

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Care users are increasingly ending up in employment tribunals because they are unaware of their legal responsibilities as an employer under the Department of Health's Direct Payment scheme, according to employment law specialist ELAS.


More than 46,000 care users in the UK are now responsible for appointing and paying their own carers as part of the Department of Health's Direct Payments scheme, rather than council-managed care.


The scheme, which was designed to give users the freedom to manage their own care budget, is seeing many fall foul of the ever-changing employment law legislation


Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at ELAS, said more and more of those who sign up to the scheme are now falling foul of stringent employment law regulations.


He said: "Although the Direct Payments scheme gives people the freedom to manage their own care, it also gives them a huge amount of responsibility too.


"We have seen a sharp rise in the number of carers taking out tribunals against their employers, many of whom quickly find themselves tied up in red tape and ill-equipped to untangle the mess.


"If this scheme is genuinely about liberating people who need care services, then more support is needed to free people from the burden of complying with a myriad of different legislation and regulations."


Among the measures the Department of Health urges care users to take are maintaining a proper set of accounts of money received and spent, and keeping timesheets to record when carers supply services and for how long.


However, there is little guidance for care users about becoming an employer and the responsibilities that come with this, such as monitoring and addressing poor attendance and handling dismissals fairly.  


Mr Mooney added: "Without proper advice, becoming an employer through receiving direct payments could seriously limit people's independence, rather than promote it.


"We have found carers challenging their users on points of law, thinking they know more than they do and putting care users in a very difficult managerial position.


"At the same time, we have come across care users being sued for unfair dismissal largely because they have not followed procedures correctly.


"Having somebody else to help manage their rights and responsibilities is essential if we are to stop the stream of tribunals we are seeing now turning into a flood."


ELAS has created a specific package for direct payments users. For more information about ELAS's services, contact 08450 50 40 60 or email