A personal assistant (PA) is a paid carer who is employed directly by the person with care and support needs, or their family member.
If you want flexibility and control over your life, you might think about employing a personal assistant, either privately or with financial help from your local council in the form of direct payments.
What does a personal assistant do?
Your personal assistant might be involved in many aspects of your life, from helping you with your personal care needs to accompanying you on shopping trips, social occasions and holidays. One big bonus is that you can choose the hours your personal assistant works rather than receive support at set times each day.
Many disabled people are able to study, work, socialise and live independently with support from one or more personal assistant.
Personal assistants will not make decisions on your behalf but will provide the support and encouragement so you can take control of your life and live it to the full.
Becoming an employer
It’s important to remember that if you employ a personal assistant you will assume the practical and legal responsibilities of an employer. This is the case whether you pay their salary with your own money or with direct payments.
Employing a personal assistant is not the same engaging the services of a care agency. When you employ a personal assistant, it is you who must comply with employment legislation, e.g. paying at least the minimum wage.
What type of help do you need?
The type of support provided by a personal assistant varies enormously so think carefully about the kind of help you need before you start looking for someone.
It’s likely a personal assistant will be able to help you with one or more of the following:
- personal care, e.g. washing, bathing, dressing
- getting in and out of beds and chairs
- using the toilet
- massage and exercise
- help with medication
- household tasks, e.g. cooking, shopping
- accessing information, e.g. reading emails, responding to letters
- banking, paying bills, claiming benefits, etc.
- leisure activities, e.g. socialising, classes, holidays
If you have high-level needs, you may need to employ more than one personal assistant and arrange their working hours accordingly. You will be supported to do this.
Even if you do not receive direct payments from your local council, you can still ask for their support to find a PA.
Information and advice
Disability Rights UK provides useful information on how much you should pay your personal assistant depending on whether they live in or out – and the legal implications of becoming an employer.
Social Care Wales has useful information about using direct payments to employ a personal assistant.
The PA Pool and Being the Boss are useful sites for anyone employing a PA.