This guide is written to support people who are using the services of a Self-employed Micro-Provider (Self-employed care worker) in Somerset. These people may be purchasing their services directly or funded through a Direct Payment or Personal Health Budget. Somerset Council (SC) and The Integrated Care Board (ICB/NHS) recognise the value that independent Micro-Providers offer in giving people flexibility, choice and control in their care and support.
There are however important legal and regulatory differences between self-employed Micro-Providers and services that are registered by the care regulator ‘The Care Quality Commission (CQC)’.
This guide is created to help you, or your legal representative better understand the risks, responsibilities and best practice when using the services of a community Micro-provider.
Using a self-employed Micro-Provider
A significant number of Micro-providers operate on a self-employed basis as sole traders. It is important not to assume a Micro-Provider is self-employed just because they have told you that they are. Being Self-employed is not a matter of choice but is determined by the particular terms and conditions under which they operate.
Therefore before engaging with the services of a “self-employed” Micro-Provider we recommend that you take some steps to ensure that you know they are genuinely self-employed. Two basic checks to complete are:
- See a completed and accurate HMRC Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) result confirming the employment status of the Micro-provider for that specific engagement. If not in place this can be completed by the Micro-Provider using the link https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax 
- See proof that they are registered with (Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs) HMRC for Tax purposes. This may be a letter from the HMRC with the Micro-Providers name and Unique Tax Reference Number (UTR) number.
As a rule, to meet the criteria for self-employment a Micro-Provider:
- Will provide or intend to provide a service for multiple people.
- With agreement can send another person to do their work if they are sick, on holiday or have a personal emergency.
- Will send invoices for the work they have done. These invoices should quote their HMRC registration (UTR) number and specify the services they have provided with a clear cost breakdown.
- Have a written service agreement or service contract with each of their customers agreeing the terms and conditions of the support provided, prices charged/cost of service, which would be mutually agreed with their clients, including when and where the work is to be undertaken.
- Will have completed the HMRC Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) accurately for that specific engagement and the conclusion is they are self-employed. They will have a hard-copy version of the form and its conclusion, and they will provide clients with this.
- Will be responsible for arranging tax, national insurance payments and general business accounts.
- Will be responsible for their own generic training, equipment, insurance, advertising and other business costs.
- They will provide their own public liability insurance and business insurance for the use of their vehicle.
- They will not get paid unless they work.
A self-employed worker would not:
- Claim or receive expenses including for travel to and from work costs, materials, equipment, food/refreshments etc
- Hire, dismiss, appraise or determine pay for others supporting you
- Receive benefits such as holiday pay, sickness pay, pension contributions or funding for generic training costs
If you have any questions surrounding employment status you can telephone the HMRC on 0300 123 2326 to check if your care provider is classed as employed or self-employed. Alternatively, you can contact the Community Micro-Enterprise Programme at email@example.com and we can advise further.
 Providers are not to use pre-existing or generic results. HMRC won’t stand by results achieved through contrived arrangements designed to get a particular outcome from the service. This would be treated as evidence of deliberate non-compliance with associated higher penalties. If your Micro-Provider is not self-employed they will be considered your employee.
For more information see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax
Are self-employed Micro-Providers registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC)?
If community micro-providers provide personal care (such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating or drinking, assisting with medication, oral care) in a person’s home, they may need to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
There is however an exemption from registration if the provider is an individual, contracted directly by you or your legal representative working under your control and direction.  Many of the Self-employed Micro-Providers in Somerset operate under this exemption and work for people who are happy, able and willing to self-manage or self-direct their care support, or have a representative that can do this on their behalf.
This means that a self-employed care worker is often a good option if you are struggling to get the services or support you want and would like more or better flexible local options.
The disadvantage is that the usual checks that come with CQC registration (training, references, qualifications, insurances etc) may not have happened. Micro-providers operating under this exemption operate in a different way than CQC registered care providers.
The most notable differences that you need to be aware of are that unregulated Micro-providers are legally unable to:
- Make decisions about your care and support
- Co-ordinate the work of other micro-providers or create a rota of care on your behalf
- Monitor or take responsibility for the performance or duties of another micro-providers
- Hire, dismiss or determine pay for other Micro-providers
It is therefore really important that before making the decision to use a self-employed Micro-Provider you or your representative need to clearly answer yes to all of the questions below:
- I (or my legal representative) know what support or care I want and need
- I (or my legal representative) are willing and able to engage directly with a Micro-provider and tell them what is needed
- I (or my legal representative) know how to check the suitability of a micro-provider and make a good choice of a provider who will meet my needs
- I (or my legal representative) are willing and able to check the suitability of a micro-provider and decide whether to engage their services
- I (or my legal representative) have the capacity, as defined under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to control, direct and co-ordinate the care needed and are willing and able to do so.
If this is not the case then using a unregulated service provider, operating under this exemption will not be right for you.
For further details please see: Skills for Care: PAs working and CQC registration
If you are unsure of the legal or regulatory status of a community micro-provider you should take advice from the Care Quality Commission CQC on 03000 61 61 61 or visit: http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/what-registration#accordion-1 or contact Somerset Community Micro-enterprise Programme at firstname.lastname@example.org
People operating an unregulated care service that should be regulated are open to prosecution by the Care Quality Commission.
 For the Care Quality Commission definition of personal care. See: https://www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/registration/personal-care
For further clarifications and for the definition of related third party please see page 14 of the CQC: The Scope of Registration document.
What checks have been made as part of the Micro-Enterprise Programme?
The Community Micro-Enterprise Programme (CMEP) make all reasonable efforts to give you confidence when looking for a local support or service.
To join the Micro-Enterprise Programme all providers must attend a ‘Micro-Provider Information Session’ where they will be given help, advice and specialist signposting to set up their service according to best practice.
All Micro-Providers that are members of the CMEP have agreed and are committed to our Community Micro-enterprise Programme ‘Doing it Right’ Quality Standards
If Micro-Providers are offering the activity of ‘Personal Care’ you should ask to see their service portfolio and check they can provide you with evidence of:
- Enhanced DBS check (within 3 years old)
- Public Liability Insurance and Business Car insurance (if they drive)
- Terms of Service (or Contract/Service Agreement)
- Care or Support plan template
- Complaints and compliments Procedure
- Risk Assessment document
- Training certification
To find a list of providers and to read their service description about the services they can provide, and who have committed to our ‘Doing it Right’ quality standards and registered with the CMEP, please visit the online directory page on www.somersetcommunityconnect.org.uk website.
What is my responsibility when using a self-employed Micro Provider?
Whilst the programme offers some assurances, we are unable to guarantee the quality or satisfaction of Community Micro-Providers who are part of the programme. It is also important to note that the Somerset Community Micro-Enterprise Programme does not check the identity, qualifications, training, employment status/history, right to work or references of the providers who join the programme.
We recommend that before you use the services of a Community Micro-Provider you meet them first. You are purchasing services or support directly from them, so you need to be sure they will do what you want in the way that you want it.
At an initial meeting or interview we would advise that you:
- Make an assessment as to the skills, competency and experience of the Micro-Provider for the required task/job role. Have they got the right training and qualifications?
- See a completed and accurate HMRC: Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) report confirming the employment status of the Micro-Provider for their work with you. If not in place, this can be completed by you or the Micro-provider using this link. Along with a printout of this outcome. A letter from HMRC with their Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number is another good source of evidence.
- Ask for references from other people they have supported. They should be more than happy to provide you with these.
- Check how the provider ensures the safety of the people that they support. Has the provider had a criminal records (DBS) check? Have they suitable public liability insurance? Do they have policies on things like health and safety, confidentiality and safeguarding? Ask to see their ‘service portfolio’ as this contains all their documentation and certifications etc.
- Make sure they have a contract/service agreement that you’ll both have to agree to and sign that will clearly set out who will do what, when, where and how. How much will you have to pay and how will this happen in practice?
- They should have a ‘template support plan’ that you should fill in together. This plan details things like your likes/dislikes, next of kin and other important contacts in case of emergency, allergies, what you are expecting them to provide etc
Do I have any ongoing responsibilities, after this initial check?
Yes you do.
- If personal care is involved as part of the service, either yourself or your legal representative have ongoing responsibility for the direction and control of this activity.
- You need to agree and follow the terms and conditions set out in the Micro-Providers contract/agreement/terms and conditions.
- You need to provide a safe environment for the provider to work in.
- You need to pay the agreed amounts in line with the providers contract/agreement/terms and conditions.
- You need to maintain clear communication with the provider.
- You need to inform the provider as soon as possible if you are unable to receive the services of the provider.
- You need to treat the provider with courtesy and respect.
What responsibilities do Micro-Providers have?
The responsibilities of all Micro-Providers who are part of the CMEP are all set out in the Community Micro-enterprise Programme ‘Doing it Right’ Quality Standards
In addition to these standards, we would expect all Micro-Providers to:
- Work with you to create and agree a plan of support that will identify the outcomes important to you.
- Work with you and your representative to identify and address any risks or health and safety concerns.
- Respect your privacy and confidentiality at all times.
- Treat you, your home and your family with respect.
- Communicate clearly and regularly with regards to the services provided.
- Keep up to date their training and qualifications for the roles required.
- Provide a contract/agreement/terms and conditions, detailing the terms and conditions of their service. This would include but is not limited to the length of the contract, payment arrangements, provider responsibilities and commitments, customer responsibilities and commitments, confidentiality, complaints, what happens when they are unable to provide the services, employment status, service termination, agreements and signatures.
- Provide invoices and receipts in a timely manner.
- These invoices should quote their name and contact details, HMRC registration (UTR) number and specify the services provided with a clear cost breakdown of each service and final invoice total.
- Honouring commitments, agreements and arrangements to provide services and, where it is not possible to do so, explaining why.
What happens if a Micro-Provider is sick or is unable to provide their service?
If a Micro-Provider is self-employed and is unable to perform the agreed services due to circumstances beyond their control (sickness, holiday or personal emergency) the Micro-Provider is entitled to provide a substitute providing the substitute is suitably qualified and experienced and has been assessed and agreed by you.
You as the client always have the right to refuse the substitute, but in instances where the family agree to this arrangement.
The Micro-Provider should:
- Give adequate notice if the absence relates to holiday or planned leave.
- Notify the client that they wish to provide a substitute and gain consent for this to happen.
- Introduce the worker prior to the engagement for you/the family to make their own assessment.
- Pay the substitute or agree with the client to pay for the customer directly.
- Ensure anyone covering for them has the appropriate training, assessment and competency sign off if undertaking delegated clinical tasks.
Please note: If an adequate replacement is unable to be sought, or the replacement is refused it is your responsibility to find an alternative.
What insurance should a self-employed Micro Provider have in place?
All Micro-Provider should have suitable Public Liability Insurance in place to protect themselves against any claim for alleged negligence during the course of their work.
You or your representative are advised to check that adequate liability cover is in place and the providers have sufficient training and qualifications for the tasks required. The providers insurance must cover carrying out personal care and if delegated clinical tasks are provided the providers insurance must also include for this.
*Note: If a provider does not have suitable training for the services provided (e.g. moving and handling, medication) then their insurance may be invalid.
All providers should have business insurance on their vehicle if they are travelling to and from your place of work or taking you out and about.
For advice on accessing the correct insurance please email email@example.com
What is a fair price for a Micro-Provider?
All members of the Community Micro-Enterprise Programme (CMEP) need to ensure they offer a clear, fair, consistent and transparent price for their services. Rates must be based on local market conditions and reflect the nature and level of service provided.
Somerset County Council currently have set rates for people who are eligible for council funded care. This is currently £22.16 per hour for Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered services that are directly commissioned by SCC, Adult Social Care. The Direct Payment rate is £19.83 for CQC registered services that are used by people with a direct payment. People wishing to use a direct payment to either employ a personal assistant or engage with an unregulated Micro-provider, will have a Direct Payment hourly rate of £15.37 (DP rate for a PA in 22/23 financial year).
These rates are not binding for Micro-providers because they are self employed businesses and can set their own charges however they see fit, but they offer a useful benchmark against which small care providers can assess their own rates. Providers who do not meet CQC registration requirements are expected and advised to charge a rate in line with the Direct Payment rate of £15.37 per hour and to be no higher than £17.00 per hour (average rate for a micro-provider in Somerset). If an unregulated provider charges significantly higher than the average rate of £17.00 per hour for CQC registered services, the CMEP would consider this to be excessive charging and would be a breach of the CMEP programme.
For NHS Somerset CCG funded Personal Health Budget (PHB) holders Micro-providers can charge up to £17 per hour where they are providing personal care involving carrying out delegated clinical tasks. NHS patients receive a service that is free at the point of delivery. This means patients must not contribute financially to the cost of their agreed care to meet their assessed care needs. If patients want to purchase additional care that is not part of what the Integrated Care Board (ICB) has agreed to fund in their PHB this will be a private arrangement between the micro-provider and the patient and not funded by the ICB.
There may be instances where providers may offer specialist services that can command a higher rate. If this is the case providers will need to notify the CMEP justifying the rate that they charge. Providers found to be charging in excess of £17 per hour for services which are deemed not specialist may be removed from the programme and associated online directories.
Unfair practices such as double charging e.g. supporting two or more people at the same time and charging them both a full hourly rate is unacceptable and in breach of the CMEP ‘Doing it Right’ Quality Standards.
CMEP members must also ensure they understand and uphold competition and consumer protection laws that apply to all trading businesses. Practices such as working together to fix prices or carve up markets or discriminating against customers by charging different prices for the same service are illegal and breach the CMEP ‘Doing it Right’ Quality Standards.
Training and Qualifications
The training requirements of a Micro-Provider are dependent on the services that are offered. The Micro-Enterprise Programme offers support and signposting to local training providers.
A Micro-Provider is expected to source and pay for their own training and continued professional development.
As a baseline we would expect Community Micro-Providers to have in date training covering:
- First Aid
- Manual Handling
- Food Hygiene
- Infection Control
- Medication Administration
If a provider is unable to access training, they can contact The Micro-Enterprise Programme on firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Micro-Providers are able to assist with medicines under you or your representative’s direction providing you:
- Put this request in writing.
- Inform the GP or health professional (i.e. District Nurse) and check whether any specialist training is needed to deliver the medication.
- Set down in writing exactly what they are asking a Micro-Provider to do and sign that request to allow consent (e.g. take inhaler from fridge at 12 noon and assist in using the inhaler by pressing down the button while the person breathes in). This should be attached to the Contract/Service Agreement.
If you or your legal representative, asks a Micro-Provider to administer invasive medication e.g. an insulin injection; Valium suppository: Micro-Providers should follow the general guidance outlined above, and in addition, even if a Micro-Provider has been trained to administer invasive medication, they can only administer this medication under the supervision of a community health professional. This means that a community health professional has trained a Micro-Provider in the use of this particular medication and is responsible for checking the correct administration. For further information please see: Delegation of healthcare tasks to personal assistants within personal health budgets and Integrated Personal Commissioning
A Micro-Provider should talk to their insurance provider about whether they will need extra cover because you are assisting with medication or any delegated clinical tasks.
For further information please see: Managing medicines for adults receiving social care in the community NICE guideline [NG67]
All Community Micro-Providers are subject to guidance set out in the Somerset Clinical Tasks and Medication Policy (Currently in Draft 31/01/2020). To help you, Somerset Council and the Somerset Integrated Care Board have offered templates to help you with your medication. This appendix covers:
Appendix 1: Administration of medicines patient/service user agreement form
Appendix 2: Somerset Clinical Tasks and Medication Training Record
Appendix 3: Example MAR Sheet
Appendix 4: Care Diary Template
Guidance for people with a Personal Health Budget paid by the NHS ICB (Integrated Care Board)
If you have a Personal Health Budget and wish to engage with the services of a Micro-provider the ICB require you to:
- Choose a Micro-Provider who has achieved the ‘quality mark’ on the https://www.somersetcommunityconnect.org.uk/micro-providers/ directory of Micro-Providers who is listed as being able to provide personal care.
- Email your Care Manager at the ICB informing them that you have witnessed proof of self-employment in the form of an accurate Employment Status Indicator Tool. For a template email please see appendix 6 of this document.
- Provide invoices to the ICB or the Brokerage & Support Service of the care provided. To be paid all invoices must quote the Micro-Providers ten digit HRMC registration (UTR) number and specify the services they have provided and their cost.
- Use your budget on the outcome or services agreed in your Support Plan
- Ensure you meet the requirements of your budget holder agreement with the ICB
In addition to these requirements, we recommend Personal Health Budget (PHB) holders:
- Ensure that their Micro-Providers have adequate public liability insurance to include any ‘delegated clinical tasks’
- Contact the ICB if any patient specific clinical tasks are required. The ICB will usually fund patient specific training for PHB holder.
- Work with Micro-Providers to keep daily care records, which where applicable could include; Incidents – falls, choking episodes, equipment failures, power failures etc, Seizure activity, Equipment use such as suctioning if this is not used regularly and the reason for using it, Calls to health care professionals, Adverse reactions to medications or topical creams and who this is reported to, Deterioration in physical condition, skin condition etc. and response, Any visits by healthcare professionals – DN, GP, OT, Physio, SaLT, Dietician etc
If you have any queries or would like to ask further questions about engaging with a community micro-provider please email email@example.com