There are two main options available to enable you to have a support worker. You can either employ a support worker or personal assistant directly, or you can pay an agency to provide you with a support worker.

There are important differences between how these work so make sure you think about what’s best for you, your family and the person you care for.

Employing a support worker or personal assistant directly

  • You will be classed as your support worker's employer if you are employing somebody directly – i.e. if there is no other agency involved in your support.
  • If this is the option you choose, you need to ensure you are able to pay their wages on a regular basis. This must be at least the National Minimum Wage for under 25s and the National Living Wage for over-25s. You must also pay their tax, national insurance and workplace pension contributions. You could buy in support from a payroll service to help you do this.
  • You will need to make sure they have a contract of employment.
  • You also need to check your responsibilities to make additional payments – for example, sick pay or maternity pay.
  • If you are employing a support worker or personal assistant directly, check what will happen if they are off sick. Will someone else be able to support you and the person you care for? Will you be able to choose who that will be?
  • You are legally responsible for your support worker or personal assistant as their employer, and so you need to check that you have the right insurance in place. 
  • Make sure you are clear about all your legal responsibilities and that you can meet them before employing anyone.
  • Skills for Care, together with Association for Real Change (ARC), has developed a toolkit to support people to employ their own personal assistants and to help you get started. In Scotland, the Scottish Government has developed the Personal Assistants Employers Toolkit, which may be more relevant if you live in Scotland or look after someone there.
  • New pension rules mean that those who employ their own support worker using either their own money or money from their Direct Payment may now be legally obliged to contribute towards a pension for them. You may need to take this into account if you decide to hire a support worker or support workers directly and pay them more than £10,000 per year. If you receive care through an agency, or if the local authority arranges your care for you, then you won’t need to pay money into a pension. If you have a support worker and they earn less than £10,000 a year, this also won’t apply. For more information, contact The Pensions Regulator on 0345 600 0707.

Also see our personal assistants page.

Buying support from a provider agency

  • If you are buying your support from a provider agency – a charity, a not for profit organisation or a private company – they will usually be your support worker’s employer.
  • Make sure that the provider agency will be responsible for paying your support worker’s wages, tax and National Insurance contributions and all other payments including sick pay and maternity pay.
  • Agree with them at the beginning, how you will be involved in the selection of the care team and support decisions that affect both you and the person you care for.
  • You can also buy your support from more than one agency. For example you could buy support for specialist needs from a specialist provider and general care needs or breaks from another, less specialist provider.
  • Your provider agency should also be able to provide support or signpost you to numerous places that can help support you and your family, for example, benefits advice, training courses, advocacy and support groups.
  • Your provider should be able to think carer and think family and not just concern themselves with the person with care needs.

Other ways you can spend your money

You don’t have to buy support from a support worker or provider agency. You could choose to use your personal budget to buy assistive technology to support you or to take part in other activities e.g. going to a day centre or using local clubs and facilities. Or you can choose to spend your budget on a mix of things. You can talk to your care manager about this.

When Gran was diagnosed with dementia I knew my life would change as her health deteriorated, but Carers Trust have been there all the way and adapted things with us. Its been a lifeline at times.

— Stephen, who cares for his Gran Lily