PA’s? – Who Cares?

Over the last 20 years I’ve discussed all types of issues affecting disabled people yet very rarely talked about Personal Assistants (PA’s). The other day I was delivering a session on the social model to a room full PA’s in Derby. It’s no surprise that they actually understood the model but what became very clear by the end of the session was the need for peer support.

As have many other user-led organisations, we have been supporting disabled people through Direct Payment Support Service contracts over the last decade or so. In each region, the majority of these contracts came to an end a couple of years ago as was the case here in Derby. Along with my peers across the country, one of our fears was that without the correct guidance, some direct payment users may be unknowingly breaking basic employment law or developing almost destructive working practices. It’s important to state that often disabled people are in the role of ‘Employer’ without any training and are just as liable in staff management as the boss who has the luxury of a HR Manager as and when needed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% behind this option as opposed to sole reliance on care agencies….but just feel there is now a gap in support to disabled people & PA’s which I’ve been told has led to an increase in cases at employment tribunals.

There are of course less social workers than before too which combined with he ‘lighter touch’ monitoring requirements means that there is very little evidence gathering of the local picture in the employment and equally important, retention of PA’s. In fact I’d be very interested to know (percentage wise) how many people using direct payments/personal budgets actually know who their social workers are!

At this session which i talked about earlier, there were some PA’s who seemed on the verge of tears due to poor treatment by the boss. Nearly all stated that there was not the framework or mechanism to raise grievances, unions didn’t seem interested – neither did the local authority. ‘A single point of call for advice would be brilliant‘ said one. By the end of the session I offered to support them in setting up their own peer support group – within seconds nearly all agreed to sign-up!

As the current social care system is failing a good portion of disabled and older people, it needs to be recognised that it is leading to a very dissatisfied social care workforce too which will only cause problems in the longer-term. I urge other Disabled Peoples Organisations to help create PA support networks too – let’s be honest, no one else is going to do it and in the bigger picture it’s in our own interests!

Agree?                     Disagree?                   Who Cares?

If you have any thoughts or comments, lease feel free to get in touch ;