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Can I pay a family member to care for me?

Posted on 19/08/2015

There are plenty of options when it comes to homecare, especially if you receive a personal budget, or you are self-funding, where you have the choice and control to hire a paid carer who suits your needs.

But what if you want to hire someone from your own family? It may be that you feel more comfortable having someone you know attend to your personal care needs and would rather use a family member, but they need to receive money in order to be able to commit the time to your care. It could be that the family member is already providing some care for you on a more casual basis and you want to formalise the arrangement.

It is a tricky area, as it is not as simple as saying yes or no as to whether you can pay a family member to care for you. Many family carers are unpaid and they contribute a huge amount to society – it is thought that unpaid carers save the country around £119 billion a year. We have an overview of using a family member for your care needs and the related considerations. There is some help available for these carers, including a Carers Allowance and again, this is covered in more detail on the website.

Choosing to hire a family member is very different – they will become your employee and that comes with it certain responsibilities for both of you.

If you receive a Direct Payment from your local authority to pay for your care, then the general rule is that you cannot usually hire a family member to provide your care if they live in the same house as you. Bear in mind that this is the ruling in England, so there could be national variations. 

This is not a hard and fast rule, however. In some circumstances, you may be able to hire a family member who does live in the same house as you, but this would have to be approved and decided by your local authority depending on the circumstances. There was an interesting case reported in The Guardian recently, which looked at this issue in more detail. 

Once you have received an assessment by your local authority, it will be determined what your care needs are and what sum of money you should receive for your care. By getting the money in this way, you will need to approve a care plan with them to determine what you plan on doing with the money and how it will meet your needs. If you want to hire a family member, then this can be discussed at this stage, especially if it is a circumstance where the person lives with you. You will need to explain why the family member living with you is the best person to provide your care and the reasons behind that (religion, language, communication, etc). You may also find that some authorities are more flexible with the rules than others. 

If you are a self-funder, then you have more flexibility to pay who you wish to supply you with care. However you receive the money though, you should ensure that you follow the proper procedures for taking on an employee. This means registering with HMRC as an employer so that you can ensure that your family member is paying the correct tax and national insurance, for example. They will also be entitled to all of the same employee benefits as in any other job. Take a look at our dedicated section on employing a paid carer to find out more.

Bear in mind that if you employ a family member who was already acting as your carer on an unpaid basis, they may no longer receive any related benefits that they claimed, such as Carer’s Allowance. They would also lose access to any support services that they were receiving from their local authority as an unpaid carer.

Having your family member become an employee of yours can change the relationship that you have. It is sensible to have contracts and policies in place, just as with any other employee, but this can be a difficult change if you are used to being together on a more casual basis. You will need to determine working hours and respect those. There is no reason that you can’t have a trial period to see if it works out. If it doesn’t, then you could look for a new paid carer with your family member there to support you on a casual basis as it is needed.

In more complex circumstances, for example when a cared-for person lacks capacity but will be paying for care with their own money, then we advise taking on special advice before a family member is hired to ensure that it is in everyone’s best interests. This is also true if someone other than the cared-for person receives direct payments on their behalf.

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