Government promises training for personal assistants

Personal assistants will have access to minimum levels of training, and service users given guaranteed support in employing them as part of a framework for PAs published today.

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Personal assistants will have access to minimum levels of training, and service users given guaranteed support in employing them as part of a framework for PAs published today.

The Department of Health plan is designed to take account of the rising numbers of PAs employed directly by service users on personal budgets and concerns over the lack of consistent support and training for both users and PAs.

Key proposals include developing an induction framework for PAs to ensure they have access to minimum levels of training, in the same way that domiciliary and residential care staff do.

The framework said existing training for PAs was “patchy and inconsistent” and few councils offered ongoing training tailored to PAs. Assistants’ experience of induction varied.

It said councils that commissioned user-led organisations to provide PA training had achieved good outcomes but warned that resources provided a barrier to improving levels of training.

The DH is working with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to establish a set standards of support that service users should expect in their role as PA employers to improve on current levels of provision.

This could include support with performance management, as well as technical support services such as payroll and finance.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said minimum levels of training for PAs would be incorporated within the standards. “It provides the basis for a clear set of standard for service users and PAs to benchmark and hold to account local organisations,” he said.

Burstow said he wanted to see councils commission user-led organisations to provide support to service users in all areas.

It also said that PAs risked becoming isolated and backed the establishment of networks of personal assistants to provide peer support.

While it rejected mandating service users to carry out checks on prospective PAs, it said they should be supported to do so if they wished.

Burstow said local authorities needed to consider what additional safeguards were required to help the most vulnerable service hire PAs through direct payments, but the emphasis should be on supporting service users to manage their own risks.

“One disabled person said to me today, ‘you go into a room of practitioners and the first question around PAs will be about safeguarding arrangements and CRB checks; if you go into a room of disabled people the first question will be around how this persion will improve your quality of life’. That tells you the lens that people need to put on for that issue.”

The DH is also still exploring the scope for establishing a voluntary register of social care workers, including PAs, by 2013, which is dependent on the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.

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