Hiring a personal assistant

5 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

You might choose to employ a personal assistant if you receive money from the local authority in the form of direct payments or a personal budget.

In this article

What is a personal assistant?

A personal assistant (PA) is someone a family or young disabled person employs to help with day-to day living.

It is not a care role in the traditional sense. It can involve personal care, as well as many other tasks that you decide need doing.

What support can a PA provide?

A PA can help with basic aspects of care. This could include help with:

Many families have been able to develop their own training on what is important to them. They can then employ people who are able to understand and support their traditions or cultures.

You can regularly review the support your PA provides to ensure they’re meeting your family’s needs. As your child gets older and the kind of support you need changes, you can adapt the care plan, agreeing new roles with the people you employ.

How do I find a PA?

You can either recruit and manage a support worker yourself, or go through an agency or support provider. There are several types of support provider, including profit-making companies, not-for-profit companies or registered charities and co-operatives.

The advantage of doing it yourself is the freedom and flexibility it gives you. It also saves on management fees and other overheads that providers have to include in their charges. You have direct control over who supports your child, what hours they work, and how they work. The potential disadvantage is that you will need the time and skills to do it and will be taking on more responsibility.

The advantage of using a provider is that it saves you time and reduces your responsibilities. The potential disadvantages are the extra costs and the reduced control. You may not be able to have the same person all the time, or you may have to compromise on the hours they work. You may not have much choice over who is employed to support you and your child.

Whether you employ someone or recruit a self-employed worker, it is important that you get good references and that each person has a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) or is in the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme (Scotland) to ensure your family can trust the people working for you. 

How do I recruit a PA?

Think about the personal attributes a PA should have if they are going to support your child. Think about exactly what help you need before you employ someone or sign a contract with an agency. It may be helpful to think about a typical day for you and write a job description. This should include:

A detailed job description can help agencies select a suitable PA for you and your child. If you’re looking to employ a PA yourself, a job description will help people who are interested in applying to get a clear understanding of what the job involves.

Once you have a shortlist of potential candidates, use interviews to ask them questions about themselves, as well as their previous work experience, training and personal interests.

You’ll find guidance on employing a PA on the Skills for Care website. The Scope website also has useful information on recruiting and employing a PA.

If you are recruiting for a PA to support a child under the age of eight, you will need to adhere to the registered childminder regulations.

Legal responsibilities

If you employ a personal assistant directly, there are some issues you need to bear in mind to ensure you meet employment law standards. This includes paying the National Living Wage and deducting the right tax.

See more information on this in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you decide to contract a self-employed worker, make sure you check that their work will be classed as self-employed by HMRC. There have been cases where self-employed workers have been found to be employed. The family who hired them has had to pay for outstanding tax and national insurance, which they had not budgeted for. You can read a guide to self-employed status on the gov.uk website, which explains whether a person is self-employed or not.

Employing someone, and the responsibility that it brings, can seem like a daunting task. But there are organisations that support and advise small employers with things like payroll, employment contracts, DBS checks and insurance.

In many areas these services are available through a user-led organisation, such as a centre for independent living. Some employer insurance companies provide free employment law advice as part of the insurance. Or you may have friends or relatives with particular skills who will be willing to help.

PA qualifications

There is no requirement for PA to have any specific qualifications. However, it is helpful if they have an NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care. This demonstrates competence to deliver a quality standard of care.

It is up to you whether you think it is important or not for a PA to have a qualification.