I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, and consequently require support from carers.
For over a decade, I have been hiring assistants (via Direct Payments) to help me with an array of tasks, including personal care.
I prefer to recruit my own staff rather than use agency workers. This has given me much more flexibility in terms of when, how and for the duration of time I use my PAs. It also means that I know exactly who will be providing my care, which is not always the case when going down the agency route. However, with this comes the added responsibility of being an employer, which in itself can be rather daunting and stressful.
I’m in the fortunate position of having a hugely supportive family who provide much of my everyday care. Since I live with my parents, I am unable to officially employ them as my carers, and so they carry out this role unpaid!
I do appreciate that not everyone has relatives to rely on. For these individuals, the only option is to pay others, often strangers, to assist with their care needs.
Like me, they might advertise, interview and hire independently, paying for their care with council funded Direct Payments (available in England, Scotland and Wales). Alternatively they may decide to use an agency.
For others though, in times of desperation, there’s no choice but to leave their residence and spend time in respite care. I know of cases where young people in their 20s have been placed in nursing homes for the elderly, where staff have no knowledge or experience of their condition and specialist needs. Personally, I can’t imagine such an experience and count myself lucky that I’ve never had to resort to this.
Over the years, I’ve employed around 10 carers/personal assistants, and interviewed many, many more! The most successful sources of recruitment for me are friends, neighbours, word of mouth and Facebook, though I also advertise locally (newsagents, post office, school newsletters, newspapers, etc).
If you are a full-time carer (at least 35 hours per week) you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
You don’t need to be related to, or live with, the person you care for.
My Mum is in receipt of Carer’s Allowance (currently £64.60 per week) as she is my primary carer.
This may seem like a decent sum of money, but consider ~
£64.60 = 35+ hours care work. That equates to £1.80 per hour
This doesn’t include expenses, e.g. fuel/travel costs, parking fees (hospital appointments), etc.
My Open Letter to Carers/PAs
On behalf of all who require personal/social care, I invite anyone considering taking on the role of carer/personal assistant to think carefully about what it really means before you do apply.
Firstly, this is not a choice for us – it is a necessity! We’re not too busy or too lazy to do things for ourselves. When we advertise for carers, it’s because we NEED them and not necessarily because we want them.
As physically disabled individuals, many of us cannot independently carry out essential everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and toileting. To have no option but to entrust such intimate activities to another person – a stranger – is unnatural and unnerving. We are, in effect, placing our lives in your hands when you take on the vital role of personal carer.
Recruiting carers can be a lengthy and extremely stressful process for us. There’s the initial worry over whether there will be any applicants at all, followed by the dreaded interview process.
We often find ourselves waiting around for interviewees to attend, only for them to carelessly fail to show without any notification.
Please do bear in mind that disabled peoplehave busy, purposeful lives too, sodon’t waste our time. We appreciate there are valid reasons for failing to attend job interviews, but it’s no hardship making a quick phone call or sending a text message to let us know in advance.
As you would with any potential employer, be professional and courteous.
If and when we are able to successfully recruit, it can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening when that person flippantly decides to resign days later. You may wonder how and why this occurs, but the sad fact is that for many disabled people it is a reality. We are not afforded the luxury of being able to manage until a replacement is found. No, we can’t simply wait for the right person to show up.
Some of us even have to resort to respite and residential homes in the meantime, thereby taking us away from our own homes and everything we hold dear. Try to imagine if you will, how demoralising and distressing such a situation would be if it happened to you. I therefore reiterate how important it is to think before applying for a role as a personal carer.
Are you dedicated, trustworthy, reliable, able and willing to learn? Ask yourself: are you considering care work for the right reasons? (it is not an easy option!)
Your role as PA may be demanding and will involve a variety of tasks. You will be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of your potentially vulnerable client/employer.
So, if your attitude to care work is casual and indifferent, this is most definitely not a job for you!