RUILS : Pooling Budgets

Step 5 Organising Support

Many groups have found using their budget to pay for someone to support them is a useful way to make their money go further. There are 3 main options for organising support and we have included a table below to help you decide which is best for your group.

  1. Advertise for a volunteer (could be a family member or friend)
  2. Contract the services of an agency who would provide a care worker (s)
  3. Engage the services of a Personal (care) Assistant (PA)

Deciding which works best for your group

Type of support

Good things

Not so good things

Volunteer or family / friend

  • No cost.
  • Could be someone you know already.
  • Might be more difficult to stay in control.
  • Boundaries can sometimes be blurred so it’s even more important to have an agreement with them.


  • Easier to get a stand in if someone is sick.
  • Less responsibility and admin than engaging the services of someone directly.
  • Less likely to be same person supporting you each time.
  • You have less choice over who supports you.
  • Most expensive option.

Engage a PA

  • You are directly in control of who you choose and how they support you.
  • More likely to have the same person or team to support you.
  • Less expensive than an agency.
  • More difficult to get a replacement if your PA is sick.
  • More responsibility and admin.
  • If you are employing somebody directly (rather than engaging the services of someone who is self-employed) you will have responsibilities as legal employer. The employees will have legal employment rights, which you will be responsible for and you will need to comply with, such as holiday pay, sick pay, tax and employer’s national insurance contributions and, in the future, also pension contributions.
  • You will also need to think about how the person will be employed (see below re self employed vs PAYE).


1. Finding a Volunteer

Start by contacting your local volunteer centre - they may have someone on their books who is ideal. You could also use find pooling friends to post a request for a volunteer to support you. Although there is no need to have any formal agreement with them about how they will support you, it’s always good to sit down with the group and make sure you all agree with how the arrangement will work. Use this checklist to help you.

2. Contracting the services of an Agency

Your local authority will be able to give you a list and maybe some advice about their specialist skills. It’s important to find out lots about the agencies you are choosing from and talk to people who have used them if you can. Make sure you interview at least 3 companies and maybe give them a trial period to see how they perform. Use our checklist to agree the arrangements. After the trial period you can review things with the group and give the agency some feedback.

3. Engaging a PA or a Support Worker

Engaging someone directly gives you more control and flexibility, but it does mean you have a few more things to organise and think about. You can employ a PA directly or you can engage a self employed PA.

Taking on a Self Employed PA

Theoretically, using the services of a self employed PA is a good way to minimise the admin involved in direct employment. You should be aware that even if someone tells you they are self-employed, this might not actually be the case so you will need to think about all the things mentioned below. If you are at all unsure you should make sure you speak to someone before entering into any arrangement.

Taking on a self employed PA is similar to using an agency. The PA is responsible for buying their own Public Liability Insurance (which is needed in case the PA or any of the group has an accident) and for dealing with their own tax and National Insurance through HMRC (the tax man). The PA will give you an invoice each week or month which you simply pay.

BUT you will need to think about whether your PA is properly self-employed and you should always carry out some basic checks before entering into any arrangement.  HMRC have some helpful tools to help you work this out:

Checking the employment status of a PA 

  1. Any PA who says they are self employed should be able to show you copies of the HMRC Employment Status Indicator result confirming the employment is recognised by HMRC and that the PA can work under self employed status. You can use this tool yourself to check. HMRC also have a list of questions you can use as a guide
  2. One of the indicators of self employed status for a PA is that they are able to send a replacement if they are unable to work. You should give some thought to how this will work in practice for you before finalising an agreement.
  3. You should check that the PA makes proper returns and declares their income to HMRC. If you do not check this and they fail to make proper returns or pay their taxes, you could be liable for the tax and NI on their income and / or face a fine, even if you have already allowed for this in your payments to them.
  4. Check they have Public Liability insurance – ask who they are insured with and check the policy.
  5. Make sure that you have a proper services agreement with the PA which sets out what services the PA is going to provide to the group (all the members should sign this). What this agreement says will be important in working out whether someone is properly self-employed and you should make sure that the agreement is followed in practice. You might want to ask someone to check over the agreement before you sign it. Here is a template you could use. You should be aware that using this template will not necessarily mean your PA is properly self-employed. This can be complicated to work out and if you are in any doubt you should speak to someone about this.

Some PAs might offer to provide their services through their own company (called a professional services company). This is a good way to avoid some of the problems which can arise if a self-employed PA turns out not to be properly self-employed.  It means that the responsibility for payments to HMRC is with their company and not with you. Before engaging the services of a PA you might want to ask if they have such a company.

Employing a PA Direct

Employing a PA direct means you are responsible for buying public liability insurance and organising PAYE tax and National Insurance with HMRC. You will also have certain legal responsibilities towards the PA (for example you will need to give them holiday pay, sick pay, maternity pay where relevant). There are also rules being brought in which will mean that employers will have to automatically enrol their employees in pension schemes and make contributions to them. There are organisations who, for a fee, will help with payroll and the administrative tasks faced by employers. If you are using direct payments, social services may already have an agreement with one of them.

Ruils has developed a comprehensive Recruitment Handbook in conjunction with Peninsula (a leading Employment Law service provider) which offers a step by step guide to being a Personal Assistant employer. It is important that you read the Recruitment Handbook carefully before deciding to employ someone so that you understand what is involved (see below)

Who is the employer?

It is important for the group to agree who will be the official employer because they will take on the legal responsibilities. There are a few options:

  1. One of the group (or a parent or representative) can be the employer. In this case, the group can still be an informal club and it would be wise to include some things in the club rules about selecting the PA and deciding on their job description etc. Use this template as a guide. You should be aware that the individual will be personally responsible for all of the obligations which an employer has towards an employee (including financial ones such as making payments to HMRC, paying holiday pay etc) and they should be sure they understand what that involves. 
  2. The group can employ the PA collectively as a club (which is also known as an “unincorporated association”). This type of group does not have to be formally registered or follow any legal formalities. However it is very important to appreciate that if you employ a PA in this way, all members of the group can  each be jointly and severally liable for any obligations towards the PA (including financial ones as above).  That means that you could each be held personally responsible if something goes wrong, for example if an employee complains to an Employment Tribunal.  You should make sure that you have rules in place dealing with how this will work in practice.  You might want to consider asking someone to look over these rules for you to make sure the issues are dealt with properly.
  3. The group can contract the services of a third party or intermediary such as Home Care Direct, who will employ the chosen PA on behalf of the group. The group maintains control over the choice of PA, the hours they work and the work they do. Home Care Direct, who are Care Quality Commission registered will be the official employer, carry out the necessary checks, organise payroll and HMRC registration and payment as well as providing training and supervision. They can also offer managed account facilities if the group wishes them to look after the collective budget. This obviously adds to the hourly cost of a PA but can help to reduce the level of responsibility and administration for the group. This option only works however where the PA is working more than 10 hours a week. There is also a set up charge which can be spread over the first year.
  4. The group can create a legal entity like a limited company to be the official employer. The members of the group and / or representatives then become directors and you will need to register the Company at Companies House, draw up rules for how to manage the company (including formal rules which are known as Articles of Association), keep financial records and submit accounts to Companies House every year. The advantage of using a company is that because it is a legal entity, if something goes wrong it will be the company which is held responsible rather than you individually. Charities, Clubs, Associations, Churches and other non-profit Organisations would usually operate using a Company Limited by Guarantee. This means the company will never carry any commercial value and is therefore ideal for such organisations. Click here for a step by step guide to setting up and operating a simple company limited by guarantee and here for a model Articles of Association. There are certain responsibilities which go with running a limited company (see HMRC website) so you may want to consult a qualified accountant. You can use an organisation called a formation agent who can help you set up a company for a small fee and they will also help with day to day administration (such as filing accounts and returns). Companies House website gives you a list of these with contact details. 

How to Employ a PA

Once you have decided who will be the official employer, you can start to look for a PA. Depending on where you live there are websites designed to put you in touch with people who work as PAs. Ruils runs which operates in the London area and there are national sites like and Gumtree is also a good place to advertise and many Local Authorities run PA registers so it’s worth contacting them.

Ruils has developed a comprehensive Recruitment Handbook - available on line at in conjunction with Peninsula (a leading Employment Law service provider) This offers a step by step guide to being a Personal Assistant employer.

The Recruitment Handbook provides information which you should read before deciding to employ someone. It summarises the legal requirements employers need to understand and presents it in an easy to read format. The recruitment handbook will:

  • support you through the process of becoming an employer
  • provide valuable downloadable templates and examples
  • allow you to create an employment contract online
  • allow you to create, save and download your own personalised recruitment handbook

The Recruitment Handbook includes help with:

  • Writing a Job Description and person specification which all the members of the group should agree. This template will help you.
  • Advertising for and interviewing prospective PAs.
  • Setting up payroll, paying tax and NI. You can use HMRC’s guide on line or you can use a payroll provider (such as an accountant or payroll bureau). They will calculate tax and NI payments, holiday entitlement and pay, send payslips and look after the necessary reporting and record-keeping.
  • Buying employers liability insurance. This insurance is needed to cover you, your PA and any third party in case of accident. Our list of insurers is not exhaustive but includes companies who specialise in independent living insurance. FISH insurance have worked with us to develop a special package for groups. Contact David Ashley   0500 432 141 or have a look at the website  Most insurance companies will also give you access to legal advice on employment law but you can also contact ACAS for free and confidential legal advice and information on 08457 474747.  If group insurance is not available, all members of the group will need to have individual insurance.  
  • Drawing up a contract between the PA and the employer. has an on line tool which takes you through the various steps and allows you to save and print out the contract document.
  • Setting some ‘house rules’ for the PA to follow, which all the members agree with. You might want to include them in your club rules.
  • Reviewing performance in line with your club agreement. It is important that all the members of the club are involved in reviewing the performance of the PA, but you may want to nominate one of the members to feed this back to the PA in regular 1:1 meetings. Go to to find out more...

You are ready to start POOLING - we hope you have fun but remember we are here to help if you need us! Contact us       

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