What makes a good PA? — Scope | Disability forum
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What makes a good PA?

lior Member Posts: 5 Listener
Hello, I'm looking for pointers from people who have employed PAs in the past. 
I am just over the savings limit so I am hiring a PA privately (at some point I will go back to the council to get a PA through them). 

I have ME/CFS. I struggle to leave the house, think, do things, socialise, because I have very little energy. I want a PA to help me stay on top of correspondence, occasionally cook or clean, help me plan what food to buy to make sure I buy enough... various things. I hope I will feel a bit more on top of my life when I have a PA. I have some idea about what this would be like but this would be a brand new experience for me, I think things would get more clear as I go along.

Going through the process of finding a PA is daunting for me (just writing this post is making me feel nauseous because of the concentration it takes to write). My plan is to message some people through a site I found that lists PAs, and plan to interview some of them (possibly over Skype). 

What should I be looking out for? What makes a good PA? What should be a red flag? Any recommendations about questions to ask? 

Thanks for your help :) 


  • poppy123456
    poppy123456 Member Posts: 31,406 Disability Gamechanger
    edited July 2019

    My daughter has a PA that is paid for by direct payments and there's more to think about than you think. My local council recommended i use a company called payroll who organise everything. They advertised the job on my behalf and i interviewed in my own home. The person i employ is not self employed, she works for payroll but i'm her employer, if that makes any sense.

    She works 8 hours per week and is very flexible for my daughter. A lot weeks my daughter will change the times all i have to do is contact the PA for my daughter and ask if she's available at a certain time. Mostly she's able to do that.

    My daughter doesn't trust anyone so this was a big issue to start with and she was determined she didn't want anyone invading her space. She has ASD and a learning disability. Just over a year later and my daughter loves her. She's a lot older than my daughter but that didn't matter to her. She definitely become part of our family and even my cat gets up to greet her when she comes. :D

    Payroll do everything for me and i just pay the PA every 4 weeks and payroll send me the payslips so i know how much to pay. They also tell me how much tax needs to paid so that i can pay the correct amount to HMRC. The PA has other clients so tax needs to be paid.

    It's not as simple as just employing a PA. Things you need to think about...

    Do you have a care/support plan?

    Is the person DBS checked? This means they have been checked for criminal records, convictions etc.
    https://www.gov.uk/dbs-check-applicant-criminal-record They need to have this because they will be working for you in your home and you need to be able to trust them. You need to feel around them.

    By law you must have an insurance policy. This will cover yourself and your PA if anything happens.

    You need to pay them the minimum wage depending on their age.

    You'll also need to pay them holiday pay depending on how many hours they work. You will need to make sure you follow employment legislation.  Your PA will have employment rights and you will have employment responsibilities.

    You will also need to write a contract for your PA.

    Do you really want to interview them through skype? I would much prefer to interview them face to face because this way you can make sure they are suitable for you. After all they are going to be working for you, in your home.

    Think about how many hours per week you want them to work, what days/times etc. Is the PA flexible? Are they able to change their day/time if needed?

    What will happen when they are on holiday? You'll be left without them. Will you be able to manage alone while they're away.

    I'd advise you to have a read of this disability rights link and it will tell exactly what you'll need to do.

  • Adrian_Scope
    Adrian_Scope Posts: 8,577 Scope online community team
    edited July 2019
    Hello @lior. How are you getting on with this? Have you started actively recruiting? 
    It does sound as though a PA would help make a real difference to you. 

    Do you have anything in mind as to what you're looking for in a PA?
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  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,545 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @lior, I fully understand how unknown it can feel when first employing a PA. Here is a post on tips for hiring a personal assistant which you may find useful :)

  • lior
    lior Member Posts: 5 Listener
    Many thanks for the responses. This feels a bit overwhelming - I can only do a little bit at a time. I need a PA to hire a PA! Are there any services that could support me through this? Reading all the guides will take me a long time. I have saved those links.

    Since I would only need a couple of hours a week and I'm not getting direct payments, I think I would be able to hire someone on a freelance basis. It wouldn't matter too much if they went on holiday. I used to employ people as freelancers in my career, I think you just need a contract and invoices. No holiday pay. 
    I'm not sure if I need insurance for freelancers, this would take me extra time to sort out. :( 

    I don't have a care plan - I have been waiting for 2 months for a report after my care act assessment. I'm not sure if it's ever coming. (I waited 6 months to get the assessment, it's appalling.) I don't know what to do in the absence of having one. Can a PA write it with me? 
    It will be difficult for me to write a job description and contract. 

    I'm looking (but not yet messaging) on PA Pool and Curam. Have to write a job description first. 

    I shall update in a week or two if I have been able to make any progress. 
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,545 Disability Gamechanger
    @lior, needing a PA to hire a PA is definitely something I can relate too! It is possible to go through an agency which obviously would depend where you live. Direct payments can be for someone who only needs a few hours, through a needs assessment with a social worker it's possible they could support you to write up a job description and use agency staff :)

    It may be worth having a think about all the options as I appreciate it is a big task!

  • poppy123456
    poppy123456 Member Posts: 31,406 Disability Gamechanger

    This is usually the first step for everything. If you did successfully employ a PA then you will need insurance to cover both of you, even if they only work for a couple of hours per week.

  • April2018mom
    April2018mom Posts: 2,872 Connected
    Did you find a PA or not? 

  • lior
    lior Member Posts: 5 Listener
    @poppy123456 I already had the Care Act Assessment (which is the same as a needs assessment), 3+ months ago. Still haven't received the support plan. I waited 6 months to be assessed.

    Since I am above the savings threshold, I won't get direct payments, and the council will not provide a PA for me - they won't help me look for one either. They have told me about one private organisation, Vibrance, that can help me hire a PA and get set up. The minimum I would pay for this service is £450 - I'd pay an extra £250 if the council does not end up writing a sufficient care & support plan. (Right now my expectations of the council are very low given how poorly they have treated me so far.) 

    At one point the council told me they could provide a service that I would pay for, with a fee of £25 per week on top of paying the PA, and that it would probably be cheaper to go privately. Now I've found out the private costs, I asked again about what the council service could provide, to figure out which would be cheaper. The person who I spoke to has moved jobs and my social worker now couldn't find out about what the council service would be. (Which I think is ridiculous, that she couldn't find out the answer to that question.) 

    The council does not have a list of private organisations that can help. For all I know there could be a private organisation who offers the same service for half the price. I have asked a friend to do a bit of research for me to find this out. 

    Obviously this is all very difficult for me to do through the brain fog, and I feel nauseous writing just this again. 
    @April2018mom no, I have not yet found a PA. But I'm not giving up, it's just going to take however long it takes. I expect I'll have one in about 3 months - one full year after I first told the council that I need support. 

    PAYE contracts would be a lot more hassle than hiring someone on a freelance basis. It wouldn't be worth me hiring a PA if I had to do PAYE in terms of my energy - it would be more hassle than help. Still haven't found any advice online about hiring a freelancer PA - it's all geared towards PAYE. 
  • lior
    lior Member Posts: 5 Listener
    edited August 2019
    I'm starting to think that I might side step the entire system and advertise on gumtree or something. I would need:

    - advice and support from someone who knows about hiring freelancers, getting insurance, etc. Wouldn't have to know about PAs. Have them help me write a contract 
    - look through the online guides for hiring a PA and make sure I've got the essential things ticked off - eg DBS check. 
    - support from a friend to message potential PAs and schedule interviews
    - have a friend be there at the interviews (of which I could probably only do 1 per week, so this process will take AGES)

    Someone from another private org heard how distressing my situation was and she helped me write a list of my needs to put in a job description. So even if I don't get any care & support plan from the social worker, at least I have that.
    I also have a very long detailed list of all my needs, so this can serve as a guidebook to the PA that I hire. 

    Then I would expect if a PA is any good, they would work with me to figure out how best to meet my needs, if anything isn't obvious.

    I'm thinking about paying £12-15 per hour. Honestly even if they have no experience as a PA, but they can cook, are happy to clean, alright at emails and scheduling, and aren't ableist and keen to learn about my limitations and how they can be overcome, then it would probably be fine. I basically need a decent, competent human. I don't need feeding or bathing or toileting. 

    I was thinking that I MUST get help from a private org to make sure I do it properly, because some of the messages on this thread made me anxious - it is very much beyond my capabilities to handle this process alone. But after being so sick for 3 years, I am underestimating the abilities of able bodied people - I have forgotten what it's like, to be able to just make room for things and learn new things as needed. I think that my friends would be able to support me. It would be a big energy spend to manage my friends but £450 is quite a lot to pay. I may have savings above the threshold, but that doesn't mean I feel ok about spending whatever. I may never work again, I need my savings to last. 
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,545 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @lior, I can completely understand how much of a daunting process this is. It sounds like you are being really organised with it all and that you have included all of the right this.

    How are you doing at the moment?


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