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What to look for in a Personal Assistant

Posted on 13/08/2015

Choosing to hire a Personal Assistant (PA)* to help with your care needs is a big decision, but ultimately can give you the personalised care and support that you need. Being able to take control of your own care helps to promote independence and also can make you more comfortable with the person that you are working with on a daily or weekly basis, as you have been at the centre of choosing the right PA.

The first step is to consider how you are going to pay for your PA. If you have significant or complex care needs, then it is likely that you will be awarded a budget from your local authority to cover the cost of your care needs. Receiving this as a Personal Budget means that you can spend the money as you see fit, as long as you meet the needs outlined in your care plan (usually your decisions will need to be run by your local authority liaison). If you are self-funding, then you should set aside a budget of what you are willing and can afford to spend on your care.

We have already put together an article on ‘How to employ a paid carer’, and this goes through the practical steps of the process you need to go through, such as advertising your position, becoming an employer, contracts, payroll and so on.

However, finding the right person can be more complex, as you want to ensure that someone who is going to be in close contact with you frequently and long term is someone that you feel comfortable with and get on with.

Before you start looking, make a list of the qualities that are important to you. Would you, for example, prefer someone of a similar age to you in order that you might find common interests? Do you want one PA to meet all of your needs, or will you need a team to assist with different tasks, depending on their specialisms?

As well as these personal traits, think about what is important to you in terms of qualifications and experience. It might be that you don’t mind a PA who has not reached the same level of education, but has a wealth of experience working with others who have similar needs to your own. It helps if you are very specific with the job role and exactly what it entails when you are looking, as hopefully those that apply will already meet most of the criteria you require.

You need to accept that you might not get it right first time, the same as any employer. When you are drawing up a contract, you could build in a trial period during which time either you or your new PA can terminate the position if it is not working, giving you both time to adjust to each other and the requirements of the role.

When you are preparing an advert for your PA, then be upfront about anything that is important to you. Note required experience and qualifications, provide a list of tasks that will need to be performed, mention hours and pay, and whether the role will be mostly home-based or out and about. This will all help to limit the field of applicants, giving you a choice between good candidates.

At the interview stage, have clear questions that you want to ask. It may help to bring along a family member of friend to take notes so you can review them afterwards in case you forget any points, and to give an impartial opinion. 

Don’t be afraid to have a follow-up interview to be sure that you have made the right decision – it is someone who will be a big part of your life. When you think you have found the right person, then you need to ensure that you meet all your new responsibilities as an employer by sending out an acceptance letter, drawing up a contract and the right policies, getting a DBS check and reviewing references, setting up payroll and so on. These are all topics that we cover on this website in more detail. This might sound a lot, but once it is all in place, then you will be in control of all your care and support needs.

For a personal insight into finding a PA and the problems that can come with it, there is a great blog on the BBC website by Rupy Kaur, who became an employer of PAs at just 15 to help manage her cerebral palsy.

*A PA is another term for a paid carer or support worker, so all of the articles on this website are relevant, whatever the term you use for your home help is.

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