Readers’ letters 23 July 2009

Issue of the week: personal assistants

PAs: There are issues on both sides

I was interested to read about the lack of support for personal assistants (“Nothing personal”).

Having employed PAs for 18 years, I am well aware of the difficulties disabled people face. The main problem is proving that a PA is abusing their employer, especially in the case of mental abuse.

But it is always going to be the employer’s word against the employee’s.

I was once taken to an employment tribunal by a PA. One of the panel said to me “Well, I suppose it’s a bit like being married, the relationship you have with your employee”.

Would the CEO of ICI define their relationship with their staff in the same way? I don’t think so.

The role of a PA and their employer is unique – this is why it is so important that both parties remember their roles.

However, employment law makes no allowances for disabled employers. The only way to get rid of a bad PA is to go down the disciplinary route, a stressful experience when we are dealing with someone who also has to perform very personal tasks. The aftermath of this can be extremely stressful

Until recently I sat on the board of Skills for Care representing disabled people who employ their own staff. After three years I felt I could better serve disabled people by developing a website,, and, through this, formed the Association of Disabled Employers.

I am sure there are bad disabled employers but there are many disabled people who need help to become good employers too.

Anne Pridmore, Beingtheboss

● It was reports of employment problems that prompted Unison Scotland and the Scottish Personal Assistant Employers’ Network (SPAEN) to carry out an initial survey of Scottish PAs and employers.

The report confirmed that issues such as pay, leave, sick pay and training were not being addressed. We also had reports that bullying, on both sides, was common.

This report led to the full research you mention now being proposed by the Scottish government, the joint dispute resolution we are working on with SPAEN, and to a publication we have produced for employers and employees that gives facts about employment. It can be found at http://www.unison-scotland/socialwork

Stephen Smellie, Chair, Unison Scotland Social Work Issues Group


Great work, shame about the name

I am grateful to hear about ways of potentially increasing funding for some of the people I work with (“Charitable causes”).

However, it was interesting that one reason given for people not accessing charitable funding was that they found it stigmatising. I would imagine that disabled people would find it stigmatising, if not downright offensive, to approach a charity named Cripplegate.

I note the explanation of how the charity came by that name (Cripplegate is the name of the parish). But surely it would be better for the organisation to consider a change of name to something more inclusive. Similarly, a name like Aid for the Aged in Distress is enough to put anyone off applying for a grant.

I applaud these charities for their great work, but please consider the impact of your name on disabled people who shouldn’t have to accept terms like “cripple” in order to get the support they deserve.

Emma Kemp, Social worker


Big Brother? It doesn’t tickle me

Peter Corser celebrates Big Brother for “democratising” fame ( and seems to think it has a special relevance to social workers as most of them are “insufferable gossips”.

Apart from begging the question of how he knows what most social workers are like, he seems to have missed the point that, however big the “personalities” in it are, far from being an experiment in human behaviour, Big Brother is just a television programme.

If I were to be bothered by show business, I’d rather watch Ken Dodd for his far superior tickling of intellectual assumptions.

Nihat Erol, London


These letters are published in the 23 July 2009 edition of Community Care

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