The Simon Heng Column

It had to happen eventually. I’ve had a stable team of caring, reliable personal assistants for nearly a year, since I discovered that the last one to leave had been using my ATM card to fund her – undisclosed – drug habit. It’s taken nearly all of the past year to bring her to justice, but she was recently convicted on 15 counts of theft from my bank account.

She now must serve a community service order and has had a drug treatment order imposed. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but sometimes the system gets it right.

Now, one of my team has handed in her resignation and, as a user of direct payments, it’s up to me to find a replacement. In three or four anxiety-ridden weeks, I have to go through the whole recruitment and selection procedure – and there can be no unfilled vacancies in this particular situation. I need 24-hour care.

An (expensive) newspaper advertisement, cards in the local newsagents and supermarkets, endless phone calls to ask whether somebody knows someone, anyone, who might want this kind of work…if, after a week, I’m lucky enough to attract more than one serious applicant – this is the usual sort of response – I’m rushing them to fill out application forms and arranging interviews with indecent haste.

My selection procedure has to be just as open and fair as any other employer – but I don’t have a human resources department to do this.

If any of them seem remotely suitable and are happy to work the long hours for the pathetically low wages I can offer, I can be tempted to take risks with my own safety. Do I have the time to take up references, let alone wait for a check from the Criminal Records Bureau or the Protection of Vulnerable Adults list? Do I offer the job to them, on the spot, so that they can give notice to their current employer to enable them to start working with me as soon as possible?

If none is suitable, I’ll need to readvertise, delaying things by a few more weeks while the clock is ticking against my assistant’s notice…

Anybody out there want a job?



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