Less monitoring – more support

I disagree with the view that there ought to be a register to
monitor personal assistants who help disabled people. From my own
experience of using personal assistants for more than 20 years, I
can say that if a register was compulsory it would make my life
much more difficult.

I began living in the community more than 20 years ago with 24-hour
care provided by young volunteers. I often had people before they
went to university, which was great. It was these intelligent young
people without preconceived ideas who allowed me to live my life as
I chose.

As time went on, we got our own workers and most of us treasured
the fact. We were in far more control. However, I know many people
who agree with me that the best personal assistants are people who
have not done it before because it’s very important to come to the
job without any preconceptions.

The best way to ensure disabled people are safe is to develop good
support networks through centres for independent living which are
controlled by disabled people who can advise about good working
practices. Social workers seem to have a self-interest in
suggesting disabled people are vulnerable. But the best way to
protect us is to give us the control of our services and make sure
the support services are adequately funded.

I now work for the National Centre for Independent Living,
campaigning on a legal right to independent living. During my
research some people have flagged up the status of personal
assistants. We cannot have a legal right to independent living
without thinking about the issues around employing PAs and their
work conditions. However, this does not mean that there ought to be
a formal register as disabled people have fought long and hard to
get away from institutions.

I hope that the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which gives
public bodies a duty to promote an environment of equality, will
mean that care assessments will not be based on negative principles
about vulnerability, but will be focused on real independent

Alan Desborough is campaign co-ordinator at the National Centre
for Independent Living

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