Personal assistants at risk of abuse because of poor support

Skills for Care finds personal assistants’ isolation is leaving them vulnerable

personal assistant
Photo: REX/John Birdsall (Posed by models)

The isolation of personal assistants (PAs) and a lack of training and support is leaving them at risk of abuse, according to a report from Skills for Care.

The research, part of a wider investigation into violence in adult social care,  found  PAs lacked the peer support of a team as well as more formal support including supervision, training and counselling.

Their close working relationship with their  employer also meant professional boundaries could get blurred, leaving both sides more vulnerable to abuse, the report found.

“PAs face unique risks and challenges associated with their isolation and vulnerability, working often in people’s own homes.”

“Like their employer, PAs are also potentially vulnerable in one-to-one situations, lacking back-up if needed and without a witness if something happens.”

PAs were most likely to experience verbal abuse and fear of physical violence rather than physical assault, and most PAs saw verbal abuse as part of the job.

While PAs were less likely to be abused than care staff in other settings, the report found they often had no mechanism for recording and reporting incidences of abuse.

The report said local authorities should  consider introducing a code of practice, guidelines for PAs and employers and a confidential advice and support helpline.

Project manager Liz Burtney said the exploratory report was commissioned because, despite PA’s becoming a sizeable and increasing part of the workforce, information about those working in the role was limited.

Numbers of PAs have increased significantly since the introduction of personal budgets and the expansion in the number of direct payments in recent years.

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2 Responses to Personal assistants at risk of abuse because of poor support

  1. Tilly Howarth November 20, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    One of the biggest problems I have observed as a PA is that some PA’s have no care experience and are sent out to work without supervision, peer support or support from the Local Authority. When attending training, it is a lot of information to take in and as a result, one can only retain so much. Therefore, in my opinion, it is more appropriate for Local Authorities to recruit individuals with at least one year practical experience as human life is too precious to be used for guinea pig. It is possible for PA’s to co-work hence, inexperience PA’s can co-work in order to gain experience while exploring peer support, directions and guidance or work for an agency to gain some experience before going out into the community on their own to assist vulnerable individuals.
    I had eight years of care/ support work experience before becoming a PA but I was still nervous during the first few weeks as a PA.

  2. Clare Evans November 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    I was disappointed at the bias in your report on PA Support and a lack of awareness perhaps fuelled by the articles author not to look for innovative solutions more suitable than traditional care supervision for disabled people seeking more choice and control in their lives than has been possible until previously through traditional services rather than now with personal budgets.
    Somewhere hidden in your article you mention that PA’s and service users are less likely to be abused than in traditional care settings – is not that an important fact to be well publicised to support the personalisation agenda rather than of secondary note in the article.
    As for support to and for PA’s, it is not just a matter of designing a model very like other professional ones. Disabled people employing their own staff can benefit from informal workshops and ongoing forums run by user led organisations such as centres for Independent Living and their staff have opportunities, particularly with grants from Skills for Care, to attend workshops on relevant subjects for the individual users situation. When you talk to PA’s about their aspirations their commitment is often to individual users rather than a career structure. However; many of us in CIL’s seeking to develop this kind of work, are prevented from doing it because of lack of resources. Any training and support to personal assistants must be done with the employers support rather than imposed by professionals.
    I write as a social work practice educator and PA employer.
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