Why be a Personal Assistant?

Becoming a personal assistant (PA) means taking on a unique role where you assist someone to live the life that they choose. PAs describe what they do as amongst the most fulfilling work of their lives, working for an individual to meet their goals. 

PAs are employed by a wide variety of people including older people, disabled people, people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities and parents or carers of children. All will have been assessed as needing assistance to enable them to achieve life outcomes.  

There are no formal training requirements for entry and employed PAs have the same rights, responsibilities and benefits of any other employee. The relationship between employer and employee is valued highly and often a PA brings their own experience to the role which can be valued by the employer. It is such a varied role, distinct to every employer, key skills tend to be around communication and flexibility- it is rarely a job of routines.   

You will need to share a belief that everyone is entitled to lead their own independent life and that their voice and opinions must be heard to that end. 

Who should consider? 

You should consider being a PA if you are motivated to assist people live the life they choose. The tasks can range from personal, such as assisting with eating, washing or dressing, to household tasks, or other tasks, such as guiding, reading, carrying or moving items or driving. Previous experience is not necessary, but getting the right match is key. 

Sometimes a PAs role can have tasks related to care or support, for example support with medications and more medical interventions, but these always come with training and support. 

Being a PA can mean working as part of a support team or working on a one-to-one basis. Full time and part time temporary or long-term roles are available and a PA can work for more than one employer. PAs can also operate on a self-employed basis. 

Taking the first steps 

If you are unsure if being a PA is right for you, consider having a chat with the Personal Assistant Network Scotland and your local Independent Support Organisation. These are the organisations who support employers in arranging their assistance and support planning. Find organisations near you at Self Directed Support Scotland (SDSS).

Take a look at the current job listings by following the links on this page for the Personal Assistant vacancies for each of the main employers. You will find a profile of each employer there. Applying can be quite informal, so your opportunity is to meet your employer to get a better understanding of each other and the role as they see it.  

Understanding the role 

Self-directed Support legislation means that people now have the right to choose how they are assisted with their independent living needs and this can mean employing their own staff using council or local authority funding.    

The Disabled People’s Independent Living Movement has campaigned for many years for disabled people to have the right to control their own lives and the assistance needed to live those lives to the fullest. The role of personal assistance emerged from that campaign. Personal assistance is a fundamental necessity to enable people to live a full independent life. Independent living means having the same choices and control in every-day lives that non-disabled people take for granted.  PAs are people who support their disabled employer to live an independent life, making everyday life worth living.  

The disabled employer is empowered to direct how tasks should be completed by the personal assistant. A personal assistant does not generally assist with making decisions or choices but assists their employer in meeting identified outcomes. The main difference between a personal assistant and a paid carer/ support worker is that the PA is accountable to their disabled employer, who, in turn is responsible for the welfare and safety of the PA, as well as their conditions of employment.