Consultation on our proposal to stop offering a Support with Confidence scheme and offer support in a different way instead

Closes 5 Dec 2023

Consultation overview and the survey

Consultation overview to read before you get started

Consultation overview

What is Support with Confidence?  

Support with Confidence schemes provide directories of accredited providers offering care and support services in a local area. Accreditation usually involves things like checking qualifications, asking for references and completing an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Certificate (DBS) check. Members of Support with Confidence schemes aren’t usually regulated by the Care Quality Commission, which has responsibility for inspecting services like home care and nursing homes. The accreditation process therefore provides important peace of mind for people when they are making choices about their services.

The first scheme was set up in 2009 by Oxfordshire County Council. The licence to run schemes under this name is now managed by Action for People and the Council pays a fee to them to operate the scheme in East Sussex. We set up our scheme in 2010 and it has been run by Adult Social Care and Health at the Council in partnership with our local Trading Standards.

There are a small number of other local authorities that were offering Support with Confidence schemes when this consultation launched. These were Bracknell Forest Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council. We plan to contact these local authorities during the consultation to understand their plans, but any decision we make will be based on what’s best for East Sussex.

How has our Support with Confidence directory worked for residents?

Residents of East Sussex could use the scheme to find help at home that they could trust. The directory was free to use and they knew that services listed in it would have been through an application process and be receiving ongoing training and support. The directory has nine categories covering a wide range of support and services: 


Examples of types of support and services

Support at home and personal care

Personal assistants, home care, cleaning, live-in support, ironing and shopping assistance

Home maintenance and gardening

Decorators, handy people, plumbers and window cleaners

Medical and therapeutic support

Massage, occupational therapy and palliative care

Specialist support

Support to those with autism, dementia and visual impairments

Personal development

Learning support and peer support

Financial, legal and secretarial support

Financial advisors and secretarial support

Social, physical and daytime activities

Arts and crafts, personal trainers and social activities

Pet care

Pet boarding, sitting and walking


Community transport, personal assistant transport and taxis

How has our Support with Confidence directory worked for members?

There have been two types of membership for the scheme: 1) Personal assistant membership; and 2) Business membership. Potential members paid an application fee and went through an accreditation process before they joined. If they were successful in their application there was an annual membership fee to pay. The amount members paid depended on the size of their business and the type of support offered. 

Once an applicant was accepted to join the scheme, they were listed in the directory and they could use the Support with Confidence logo on their business paperwork and advertising.

What other services did the scheme offer apart from the directory?

In addition to the directory, the scheme also provided guidance, advice, training, newsletters, wellbeing support and help with complaints to all members. For personal assistant members there were two dedicated services offering referrals and contingency planning.

The referral service was used by Council staff to help our clients find support. The service helped match people with personal assistants who could help them at home and in the community with things like washing, dressing, cooking, medication and getting out and about.

The contingency planning service helped personal assistants to put a plan in place for when they were unable to do their job because they were ill or on holiday. This would include a referral service which helped find other personal assistants who could cover for them while they were off. 

What facts and figures do we have about the scheme?

Our scheme had 349 accredited members and 55 applications in progress when it was paused in July. Self-employed personal assistants made up 85% of the membership and most of the new applications were in this category. The remaining 15% of members offered business services.

The main way that residents have found out about Support with Confidence services is through our online directory. Some visit it themselves, but others will have help from family, friends, adult social care staff, or organisations like Age UK or Age Concern.  The directory has always been well used, with nearly 11,500 page views in May alone.

Residents who aren’t online could get in touch with the Support with Confidence team for help to access services. Between 1 March and 30 June, the team dealt with 196 enquiries about services from residents. They also had 373 personal assistant referrals from adult social care staff.

Why have we paused our scheme?

A report on the employment status of personal assistants was published in June by the National Direct Payments Forum. The report raised serious questions about how we were operating our Support with Confidence scheme at that point.

In summary, someone’s employment status will depend on how they are carrying out their work and will be determined for every individual working arrangement. This matters because self-employed workers are not paid through PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and they pay a different category of National Insurance to employees. They also do not have the rights and responsibilities of an employee, such as holiday or sick pay when they’re not working. There is no single test that decides if a person is employed or self-employed, or an agreed national position. This makes everything more complicated, as if someone’s employment status is found to be wrong, the worker and the individual or organisation that is found to be their employer may have to pay unpaid tax and penalties.

The majority of Support with Confidence members are self-employed personal assistants and they have been a big part of the success of the scheme. For this reason, we sought urgent legal advice on what we should do to address the issues raised in the report about the employment status of personal assistants and how they affect our scheme.

The legal advice was clear that there were two elements of the scheme as it was running then that should be permanently stopped. These were the personal assistant referral service and the contingency planning support. This is because supporting referrals and helping people to find personal assistants through the directory could be classed as providing unregulated introductions and a ‘matching’ service. In a similar way, helping with contingency planning could potentially count as operating as an unregulated care agency. Neither of these types of activity are appropriate for us to be doing as a local authority and they bring legal risks that we are not willing to accept.

We know that these aspects of Support with Confidence are particularly valued by members. Because of this we decided to pause any new activity relating to the scheme while we decided what to do next. This includes activity for all members, both personal assistants and businesses, even though business members aren’t directly affected by these issues.

How are adult social care clients affected?

The Support with Confidence scheme has been widely used by the department’s staff to help people eligible for support from us – our clients - to find services. We would like to reassure clients who have already used the scheme to find a personal assistant that there are no plans at this stage to review your existing arrangements. If that changes in future, we will be in touch to discuss what needs to happen. Business services are not affected by the issues raised in this consultation, so there will definitely be no need to review your use of these services.

There is more information on how clients already using services are affected in our ‘frequently asked questions’ on the consultation webpage. You are also welcome to discuss your current arrangements at any point with our contracted direct payment support providers (visit our website for their contact details or get in touch with us to find out more).

Why are we consulting now on what happens next?

The issues raised in the report are national and don’t just affect East Sussex. At the time of starting this consultation there is no indication that there will be any more information available soon from national organisations. We don’t think it’s fair to keep the scheme paused for a long period of time. That means we need to decide what is best for East Sussex based on the information already available to us and what we learn through the consultation.   

What is the focus of the consultation? 

The consultation is about our proposal to stop offering the Support with Confidence scheme and about what support we might provide instead. We want to hear from residents, scheme members and applicants, and those who have referred to the scheme in the past, about what would be important to them for new support.

As we have already said, we will not be offering a referral service or supporting personal assistants with contingency planning in the future. This is due to the legal risks of continuing to provide this sort of support. For this reason, we are not consulting on the decision to stop offering this support.

What options have we considered?

We feel there are two main options for what we do next:

  1. Offer a more basic version of the Support with Confidence scheme so that it could keep running.
  2. Stop offering the Support with Confidence scheme, and offer support in a different way. This might include directing people to services run by other organisations.  

With option one, the scheme could continue to offer an accreditation service and online directory, as originally intended, but would not provide the referral service or help personal assistants with contingency planning. This would allow us to keep the scheme logo and directory. The issue is that the elements of the service that would stop are the ones that members particularly value. This is likely to mean that some personal assistants decide to stop being members. If enough members left this would make the scheme less useful to residents and less viable to run.

With option two, the support would focus on elements of the existing scheme that people value and could include things like accreditation, DBS checks and training. The benefit of this approach is that we would have the opportunity to offer something based on people’s needs and what would make the most difference to them. While the level of support wouldn’t be the same as now, we would still be offering support to personal assistants and businesses, and residents looking to engage their services. To get an idea of the types of support we may be able to offer in future please see the survey. 

What is our preferred option?

We’ve had lots of discussion internally about what is best to do next. Our feeling at this stage is that a fresh start would be better in the long run. This is mainly because the elements that we have been legally advised to stop offering are an integral part of how Support with Confidence was working locally. Continuing the scheme without the referral service and contingency planning doesn’t feel viable. 

For this reason, we are proposing to go ahead with option two. This would see us stop offering the Support with Confidence scheme and offer support to residents and members in a different way based on what was most important to them. This might include directing people to services run by other organisations.   

We know that the referral service has been popular with adult social care clients and helped many people find a personal assistant to meet their needs. Based on legal advice, the service in its current form won’t be able to restart. We are planning to explore what we could do instead, but it’s still early days in our thinking on this. 

It should also be noted that other information may come to light during the consultation that may change our thinking on the options. This is because the National Direct Payment Forum is planning a conference on the topic and Action for People is in the process of revising the Support with Confidence licence.

Whatever we decide at the end of this process will be based on ensuring we are safeguarding our residents as best we can. We would also like to emphasise that we are committed to working with those affected by any change to manage the transition to whatever comes next. 

Who do we want to hear from in the consultation?

We know that the Support with Confidence scheme in its current form is highly valued by members and residents. For this reason, we really want to hear from those who will be affected by the pausing of the scheme and whatever happens next.

The consultation is your chance to share your views, concerns, and ideas. What you tell us will help make our decision making as robust as it can be. We are keen to hear from:

  • residents who have used the scheme as well as those who haven’t,
  • personal assistants working in self-employed and employed roles, whether you are members of the scheme or not,
  • business members of the scheme,
  • staff who have referred people to the scheme,
  • voluntary and charity sector staff and organisations supporting people with direct payments and/or to access support, and
  • our public sector partners such as other local authorities, and the NHS.

What happens next?

The consultation closes at the end of the day on 5 December 2023. What you tell us will be summarised in a consultation report and will inform the Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA). An EqIA is a tool we use to understand how particular groups and communities would be affected by a proposed change. Both reports will be published on our main website and we’ll let you know when they are available by updating our consultation webpage.

A final decision on what happens next will be made by the Lead Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Health in February 2024. Lead cabinet members are authorised by Cabinet to make certain decisions within their areas of special responsibility.  

1. Are you completing the survey as:

Your answer to this question will take you to the next section that is most relevant for you - either the questions for residents, workers and organisations who have used the scheme, the questions for members and applicants, or the questions for people who haven't used the scheme or heard of it before taking part in the consultation. 

There is a limit of 100 characters
2. How much do you agree or disagree with our proposal to stop offering the Support with Confidence scheme and offer support in a different way instead?