Individual Budgets: mixing business and family

When it comes to working with relatives, we don’t always know what the right advice is. I’m sure there’s an old saying about never mixing business and family, and yet family businesses are still common, and not just the sort run by the Mafia.

The mixing of business and family has even now spread into the social care system. With individual budgets, some people will be able to pay friends or relatives to provide care and support. There is an instinctive uneasiness amongst many people when this prospect is raised.

Some will feel it improper in some way that a family member should be paid from a budget to purchase care and support, when the person may have previously been providing it for free and thus is eating up some of the budget that would previously have been spent on other support. Or maybe, they feel that the person being cared for would feel under pressure to pay their relative, bringing money into the household, when they would rather spend the money on other support.

Looking at it from the carer’s viewpoint, some will think that if a carer accepts payment they will feel even more obliged and burdened to provide all care and support. Or will it make the carer subservient to their friend or relative, creating a boss – employee type relationship? Some fear what will happen when a person has to sack their friend or relative as their paid care worker.

Looking at what might go wrong, it might be tempting to say we should just ban anybody using an individual budget to pay a relative to provide support. Using that TV programme ‘Who do you think you are?’ we could find out everybody’s family tree down to first cousins and strike them from the list. Who is a friend would be harder to define, but surely Facebook must be able to help with this?

We are right to consider what could go wrong and potential ramifications, but we cannot restrict all that we do based on what is the worst that could happen. Likewise, we should never restrain progress until we have found a solution to everything that might go wrong. Firstly, no solution will ever be perfect for every situation, and secondly there will always be something that we had not thought of that will go wrong anyway.

I met a man last week who had cared for his wife for two years before she died. He gave up his work to look after her, which allowed her to continue working as long as she could. She had a personal budget that allowed her to pay other friends or relatives to look after her while her husband had a break.

He recounted how before the personal budget, they did not want to ask friends or family for help; they didn’t want to impose on them. Then when they had the budget, they felt it was ok to ask friends and family for help as they could offer payment in return. Of course, they found that friends and family would not take a dime from the couple who were having such a horrible time.

It was resolved when the couple explained to family and friends that if they did not come in to provide support and take the money, then the couple would have to pay a stranger to do it. They would much prefer it was friends or family who were coming into their home to care for her in the last few months and weeks.

This was not an example of a case where a carer living with the cared-for was receiving a payment, which is where most of the worries lie. But nevertheless it showed me a different outcome than the worst case scenario. It showed me what can be achieved and maybe would be achieved more often than not. It showed me that we should not extinguish the hopes of many families because we fear it could go wrong in a few.

Take Care

(Society Guardian ran an interesting article last year on how individual budgets have affected the lives of five different people)


August 21, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,


  1. There’s an awful lot to go wrong when paying strangers as carers. They don’t turn up, they come late leave early, they are choosy or highly selective about what they will do, they are a bit rough, insensitive or you don’t really like them!
    I think so long as it is a choice that gives the caree full rights and control it is best they are allowed to choose. We have DP for 3 hours a week for hubby’s social independence [whatever that means] problem being that you cant get anyone who will do bowel care ie clean him up if he soils or empty his bowel [as I do] manually if he wants to go swimming [which is what it was intended for]. On the other hand if he could pay me we could divert that money to cover me for the extra time I give him for instance someone to do some ironing. With him and our two boys to care for I am mostly too tired to do the 2 hours swimming on top.
    Do we take the view that carees don’t have the ability to decide for themselves who they want to care for them or do we give them autonomy? Unless they are mentally incapable I think autonomy. Smile emoticon

    Comment by Fen | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi, we employ our daughter using a DP – my husbands needs are complex and it’s the only way I could get any help at all.
    We use the DP to give me 2 nights sleep each week and to cover a work session one afternoon a week.

    Prior to the set-up of the DP, I’d not had a full nights sleep in 22 years!

    As the other Carer stated, I can honestly say I’ve felt the same – I would not have been comfortable asking our daughter to provide this type of care unpaid.
    I always felt guilty asking family to help out and our unique position – requiring continuous care throughout the night just would not have been possible – sleep seizures are a nightmare to cope with at the best of times!

    I’m so glad we set up a DP, I no longer need to feel guilty for taking a day off and more importantly I know however bad it gets I will sleep soon – previously I just kept running on empty all the time!

    If I could not employ family, I’d be on my own again and struggling as my husband can’t cope with people he doesn’t know during/post seizure activity.

    Thank God for Direct Payment!

    I spoke about the way the DP had helped me cope in an STV carer week special report for Carers Week

    marie x

    Comment by marie | August 21, 2009 | Reply

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