What is the role of a Personal Assistant?
A Personal Assistant supports an individual in their home, at work or to go out in the community. They can help people with various aspects of daily life, to help them live as independent as possible.
Not everyone who uses social care understands the role of a Personal Assistant.
There are some people who currently receive support from a care agency, but that support inadvertently restricts them in what they can and can’t do.
Personal Assistant – a common term in social care
We often use the term Personal Assistant in the context of social care. For those of us who work in this field, titles such as ‘PA’, ‘Personal Care Assistant’ or even ‘Personal Assistant Carer’ are common in describing support workers and are used interchangeably. However, it’s important to note there is a difference between these roles and a carer.
A Personal Assistant is a derivative from personal assistance, which has it’s own specific meaning.
What is personal assistance then?
Some of us, like disabled or older people have a variety of limitations that make it challenging to perform their daily activities. If this applies to you, then you know that these limitations can mean you need the support of someone else to help you overcome it.
It is this help that’s called a personal assistance. It helps you live your life with greater independence and dignity.
Personal assistance is a concept borne from the disabled people’s movement. It is also outlined in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (CRPD) as a way of differentiating it from other types of services.
Under Article 19 of the UN Convention you can:
- Custom design your own service. You can decide who works for you, what tasks they perform, at which times, where and how.
- Choose the degree of personal control you have over the service you receive according to your needs, capabilities, current life circumstances, preferences, and aspirations.
- Receive funding based on market level rates to allow you to recruitment assistants on the open market instead of relying on your family members.
By employing your own support workers you are less dependent on your family and don’t have to receive support from care workers in residential care. Ultimately you can, with support, live independently within your community.
So what does a Personal Assistant do?
Whatever your title for the support workers, you pay them directly and that puts you in control.
It’s not a carer role in the traditional sense and whilst it can involve personal care, there is a much broader scope to the role. It all depends on your requirements.
You can employ your Personal Assistant to provide you with support in the different aspects of your daily life. This could include (but not limited to):
- Personal care
- Household tasks
- Providing you with support at school, university or at work
- Planning and structuring your day
- Supporting you with personal administration
- Accompanying you on appointments, outings, and social engagements
- Meal preparation
These are example tasks – you can employ your Personal Assistant for whatever you need. Moreover, there may be occasions when you employ a family member to be your Personal Assistant.
How many people employ Personal Assistants?
According to State of the adult social care sector and workforce report 2018 by Skills for Care:
- Around 240,000 adults, older people and carers were receiving direct payments in 2017 (NHS Digital), of which, they estimate that around 70,000 (29%) employed their own staff.
- Between 2008 and 2013 this figure increased by around 35,000, in line with the take up of direct payments over the same period.
- Individual employers, on average, employed 2.1 Personal Assistants each and there were about 145,000 jobs for direct payment recipients in 2016.
- Personal Assistants held an average of 1.27 PA jobs each which means around 115,000 people were carrying out the 145,000 jobs in 2016.
- The Personal Assistant turnover rate reported by individual employers was 18.9%. This was lower than the sector-wide rate for care workers (33.8%).
- The PA vacancy rate reported by individual employers was 7%. This was similar to the sector-wide rate for care workers (7.7%).
Funding my Personal Assistant
As mentioned before, employing your own Personal Assistants gives you the choice and control over who supports you and when.
You could use a direct payment or your own money to pay for this support.
If you have a personal budget from the local authority, you can pay for any assistance. This is based on your assessed needs which take into account your lifestyle and personal situation.
How much should I pay a Personal Assistant?
What you pay your PA needs to be in line with current salary levels within the UK. At the minimum you should comply with national or living minimum wage.
Depending on your budget, you can have more than one Personal Assistant. Provided you have enough money to not only cover the salary but also the recruitment costs, administration costs and any additional costs needed for your Personal Assistant.
Employing a number of regular Personal Assistants who have varying skills and at times which suit you would be a challenge for any care agency.
Can I really get my Personal Assistant to do whatever I need?
Within reason yes. There are two main factors you need to consider when looking for a Personal Assistant. One is having clarity about what you need them to do and secondly, being patient and open in finding the right person to fulfil the role.
To help you understand what you need, I would suggest drafting a job description for your Personal Assistant or Personal Care Assistant. This not only makes it clear what you need, but also provides the template in which you can advertise to find this person. Remember that there are a lot of people also recruiting for Carers and Personal Assistants so it’s important that you spend the time and effort writing a job description that is as engaging as it is accurate.
If you feel like you want a more stand out job description, then it’s worth reading Probably the best Personal Assistant Carer job description to give you some ideas.
How do I find a Personal Assistant?
You can either go via a specialist recruitment care agency or seek to find them on your own.
Using several methods, such as placing an advert with local Job Centre or online job boards, you can manage the process from start to finish.
Before you go ahead though, make sure you understand the process of selecting a capable Personal Assistant, as well as the responsibilities involved in being an employer and the administration associated with it.
If you feel this is too much for you to handle , use a care provider instead. It saves time and reduces your responsibility. However, if the care provider assigns their own care worker for the job, you will not have as much control as you would have if you hired your own Personal Assistant.
In summary, hiring a Personal Assistant has many enefits that tend to get overlooked. In the example of Ray, it would have been a useful alternative that would give him more flexibility and support to do the things he wants to do.
Having choice and control over your support can be truly life changing. Nevertheless you need the skill, time, patience and support to find the right Personal Assistant for you.