Personalisation: clarify law on paying family carers, says Trust

Rules on employing close kin as carers with direct payments are being changed by stealth, says Princess Royal Trust for Carers head

Laws restricting people from using direct payments or personal budgets to pay resident family carers are being “amended by default”, a carers’ campaigner has said.

Alex Fox, director of policy and communications at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said although he backed giving carers the option to be paid by a loved-one, any change in the current legal position needed due consideration.

Last week’s evaluation of the impact on carers of individual budgets found differing practice among the 13 pilot councils on the payment of resident carers, which is allowed only in exceptional circumstances.

In seven pilots, carers were not paid from IBs unless there was “no feasible alternative”, but regulations were interpreted more flexibly in other areas.

Most suitable

In some cases, payments were permitted if loved-ones were deemed the most suitable people to take on the caring role, while other family carers were paid if they had given up paid work to care for an IB user.

The evaluation found practitioners had different views about paying family carers. Perceived advantages included giving users choice and providing carers with recognition, improved income and access to training.

Perceived disadvantages included changing the nature of a loving relationship by introducing a financial dimension, reducing carers’ eligibility for benefits and undermining voluntary care-giving.

Relax rules call

In a Carers UK survey on carers’ experiences of direct payments, published last November, 65% thought the rules should be relaxed.

Fox said the evidence from elsewhere in Europe on paying family carers was “equivocal” and said carers needed to retain choice over the level of care they provided and have access to other job opportunities.

• Should service users use direct payments to fund resident carers? Have your say on CareSpace and vote in our online poll.

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