Personal assistants can give your child more choice and control over their lives. Guidance from Skills for Care looks at what you need to know when employing a personal assistant.
Personal assistants (PAs) support people to live their lives, according to their wishes and interests.
There are many benefits of employing a PA. They can give an individual more choice and control over the support they get. They work for you. You can decide what you want them to do and when you want them to work.
What can a personal assistant do?
There is a wide range of tasks that personal assistants might do, including:
- supporting with personal care (dressing, washing, toileting etc),
- social activities,
- meal times, and even
- delegated health care tasks, such as PEG feeding.
Over time, the tasks performed by a PA might not stay the same, particularly as support needs will change throughout the transition from childhood to adulthood.
As your child gets older, it becomes increasingly important to involve them in the planning of their support, so they can achieve the independence they want as they move into adulthood.
Being able to find, recruit and keep good PAs, means your child will have the right support when they need it.
Employing a personal assistant
New research from Skills for Care explains the ‘secrets of success’ to employing PAs.
According to nearly 1,000 individuals who do it already, the best ways to recruit and keep good PAs are to:
- employ someone you know,
- ask for recommendations from other individual employers,
- ask for advice from support organisations, such as social services,
- be clear about your needs upfront,
- be seen as a good employer.
How do I find a personal assistant?
The most successful way to find a personal assistant is to employ someone you already know. This could be a family friend, neighbour or someone who has previously worked for you via an agency.
One parent told Skills for Care, ‘I employ PAs who have previously worked with my daughter in a school setting. They already know her and have an understanding of her complex medical needs.’
Recommendations from other individual employers and getting support from organisations, such as social services and direct payment support organisations, can help you to find PAs who are right for the role.
The research also highlighted that employing someone who’s the right ‘fit’ was often more important than employing someone with previous care experience or qualifications. One individual recommended, ‘Don’t just look for someone with care experience, look for someone who communicates well.’
This means ensuring that personal assistants have the right values or ‘soft skills’ through the recruitment process. You can then develop their skills and knowledge through training. Clearly, you need to know that any potential personal assistants are safe to work with your child as well, so a full DBS check and references from previous employers are important.
For many people who completed the survey, getting the recruitment process right in the first place was the crux of keeping a personal assistant.
This comes hand-in-hand with ensuring that you’re seen to be a good employer to encourage people to want to work for you, and being clear about support needs up front so you can select a PA who’s suited to the vacancy.
One individual told us, ‘Ensure you know exactly what you’re looking for and advertise accordingly so there are no surprises on either side.’
Being a good employer
To be a good employer, individuals suggested you should:
- ensure that you have good lines of communication,
- treat PAs with respect,
- be flexible,
- pay well and on-time,
- create a pleasant working environment,
- show your PAs that you appreciate them.
Clear communication is especially vital throughout the transition to adulthood. It’s important that you think about changes in education or employment and understand the kind of support needed (and wanted) by your child to meet future plans. For example, it might be travelling to college, attending university or living away from home.
If your child wants PAs to support them throughout this transition and into adulthood, it’s important to enable them to take control over the employment process, if they wish. For example, where family members have previously being responsible for employing and managing PAs, think about how you can train and transition that responsibility to the young adult.
Skills for Care has funding for adults over 18 who employ their own PAs through a direct payment or with their own money, to pay for training which might include courses around ‘being a good boss.’
Getting started as an employer
Skills for Care has a range of resources to help make your role as an individual employer easier.
To support you to understand your role better, and train and develop your PA, they’ve developed an information hub that brings together useful information and resources from lots of different places.
Thanks to Jenna Wood of Skills for Care who wrote this article for us.
Do you employ a PA? We’ve heard that it can be a fantastic way to support your child with their independence. Share your experiences in the comments below, via our Twitter, Facebook or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.