Having Live-in Support
20th July 2017
For some people who require a large amount of social care to support them with their practical and social outcomes, live-in support should be an ideal solution for them. Live-in support is when you have someone who lives with you full-time or part-time in your own home. They are likely to ‘work’ for you for a maximum number of hours each week on a pattern that is mostly flexible. They could be employed by you, be self-employed, come via a care agency, or come as volunteers through schemes such as the one run by Volunteering Matters( https://volunteeringmatters.org.uk/).
The main advantage of live-in support is that while this cannot be guaranteed at all times, you have someone else present in your home at times when you do not have direct support. This means you can feel safer in your home, knowing someone is around if there is an emergency. By having a good relationship with your live-in assistant, they may be more than happy to assist you with small tasks outside their work hours. They may also be able and willing to cover your support at very short notice if you are let down by other support staff or services in any way.
The main disadvantage is that it can be hard for yourself or your live-in assistant to fully understand the dual relationship of working for you and living with you. It is easy for the boundaries between work and rest to blur, and for the relationship between employer/employee and housemate to be misunderstood. The relationship can be seen as unique to any other working relationship someone may experience, which different people will manage in different ways.
The essential thing that you require before you can consider having any kind of live-in support is a bedroom for them. It is more than just having somewhere to sleep, which could be a sofa bed in the lounge, it is essential they have practical and emotional private space in order to keep the relationship working. If you cannot provide a bedroom, then this is not an option for you.
If you can only provide them with their bedroom as their only private space, you must be willing to accept that they must have equal access to your kitchen, bathroom and other communal areas, where only your bedroom and living room may be seen as your private space.
In the Kitchen, it will be normally assumed that they can use any appliances, utensils and so on as available. You may decide to read together, sharing food, but if not, you should provide storage areas for their food including fridge and freezer space. You may consider purchasing a fridge for their sole use. It is only normal to expect them to purchase their own toiletries. You may come to an arrangement in terms of using the washing machine and dryer if you have one.
Their bedroom clearly requires a bed, and the assistant should clearly have access to bedding. A desk and chair is likely to be desirable for a whole range of reasons. Nowadays, access to good quality Wi-Fi for assistant’s computing and other devices is often more desirable than a television, as it helps to reduce social isolation, especially if they come from another country.
A final essential is that the assistant is provided with their own set of house keys on indefinite loan, so they can come freely in and out as they wish when they are not working. As a precaution, you may wish to install a door chain, so if your relationship with the assistant becomes concerning, you can lock them out if it has become a police matter.
An important document to set the boundaries during working and other hours between yourself and your assistant are the house rules. While you will produce a first version when you begin, it is a document you are likely to amend and improve as you change your assistants over time as you learn more about what you need, and your situation changes.
The house rules are more guidelines as opposed to a legally binding contract and combines expected behaviour with practical issues regarding the effective running of your home. It will cover issues like not smoking, drinking or taking drugs at work and at other times in the home. What property can be used communally, communication required if the assistant stays away overnight (which could be a visa issue for foreign assistants), not adjusting heating controls without asking, when is bin day, as well as confirmation of standard employment issues like holidays.
Because they are living with you solely because it is a requirement of their work, the question of whether you legally live on your own or not will depend on the specific situation. However, the unique relationship of having a live-in assistant means you can assume it is your home, as you will be paying all the bills which means you are in a good position to lay down the house rules, so long as they are fair and transparent. The rules must also be presented to the assistant before or when they start working for you.
No one is perfect
The relationship between someone requiring support and a live-in assistant can be very different to any other relationship. It can be like a marriage in many ways without the emotional ties, and sometimes without a meaningful friendship being formed. People who choose to have volunteers may not meet their assistants before they arrive so have no real idea of their personality. The upside to this is that volunteers often work for a set period, like 12 months, so you know there is an end point.
It can be useful to have a regular and consistent change of live-in assistants, so you have an opportunity to grow and ‘reinvent’ yourself in terms of new habits and lifestyle choices. Once you have trained someone to work in a specific way with you, it can be very difficult to change that when your situation has changed, or you wish to experiment with how you wish to live.
An important part of the relationship is to ensure there is enough emotional space between yourself and your live-in assistant. It is easy to assume that having someone’s presence all the time is a good thing, but the reality can be the exact opposite. Some of the traits of your assistant, which you may have just found mildly annoying at the start of the relationship could become increasingly problematic over time, particularly if you do not factor in sufficient breaks in the work schedule.
It is therefore important to encourage your assistants’ to make good use of their days off, as it is also a day off for yourself from them. It is also important that they have proper holidays spread throughout the year for a week or more for the same reasons. Failing to provide these holidays will only harm the relationship you have, even if you believe it is going well.
Is this really for me?
Having live-in support is not a decision to be taken lightly as it requires more practical and emotional investment than any other kind of support. While someone may decide to have two or more live-in assistants, especially in a university situation, it is important there is someone external, maybe another member of staff who does not live-in, who can act as a supervisor in some way, especially to negotiate a solution when problems arise.
It is important a live-in assistant is required to work a fixed number of hours that allows for regular full days off, as an ad-hoc relationship can also end in disappointment. It is important to understand that while it is reasonable to expect your assistant to sleep at your home for the majority of the nights they are not working, you cannot restrict where they must stay when they are not working.
When you are deciding if live-in support is for you, it is important to understand what you imagine you will use the support for and how you believe it will work on a day-to-day basis. This may not be how it actually happens once things start, but it is going to give you some idea of whether doing the necessary preparation is going to be worth it when there are many other options available.
For many people, live-in support has remained an essential and successful part of their overall support package for many years. Since every assistant is different with good ones and bad ones, it is important to know the difference between a bad assistant and an unsuitable overall solution. This is not a solution for everyone, but it could be the perfect solution for you.
Support managing Live-in support packages from MBL;
If you are supporting direct employers to set up and mange a live-in situation it is important to consider the relevant statutory provisions applicable to the PAs employment situation. Namely the National Minimum Wage regulations (NMW) and the Working Time Regulations (WTR). These statutory provision are designed to ensure employers pay their staff fairly and lawfully but also keep them safe and well at work.
We are acutely aware that to account for this within often limited social care budgets can be challenging.
If you or somebody you support requires support with a particular case and has a policy with us MSL are on hand to provide bespoke advice and guidance around drawing up a contract of employment and helping to design a work pattern around the individuals needs and budget.
More generally we also provide workshops and training courses to support organisations and Local Authorities covering all of the above recently endorsed by Skills for Care as a mark of excellence in the adult social care sector.
If you would like to find out more or book a workshop please get in touch with the HE team.