Thursday, January 22, 2009


The job advert for my Social Care Personal Assistant (PA) has been confirmed to run in a local paper next week, as well as to be put up at the local Jobcentre and the nearest university. The closing date for applications will be three weeks after that, and provisionally I will hold interviews two weeks after that.

So hopefully, in the next month or so, I will have some help to Do Things other than work, to the tune of three hours a week. "Things" essentially means anything out of the house that I can't do by myself, so some of it will be leisure activities (like going swimming or shopping) and some of it will have to be essential nonwork activities (like going to the CAB or hospital appointments).

It's going to be a great relief to be able to get help with these things rather than having to either depend on the goodwill of friends, or weigh up an activity against whether Steve could be allowed to take time off work and whether we could afford for him to do so (as a contractor, Steve is only paid for hours worked, with no rights for sick days, holidays, care duties, etc).

The learning curve for How To Be An Employer is astounding, and this despite the fact that I am having my hand held all the way through by the Rowan Organisation. I suspect I'm not making it any easier for myself by trying to be the kind of employer I would want to be employed by, while bearing in mind it is a job that I do not have the physical capacity to do.

The other bit which does my head in is that the going rate for a PA is £7.70 an hour plus mileage and expenses. This is substantially more than I earn, so basically we're saying that my assistant's time is worth more than mine is. That stings a little.

Still, it's not my money, unless I want assistance for more than three hours a week. If I'm lucky I'll manage to find someone really good, who is willing to go beyond just pushing the wheelchair where I ask her to, and actually help me develop my life a bit and come up with some fun things to do. In return they get what's really one of the less arduous ways to earn £20, not to mention the opportunity to participate in various leisure activities without having to pay any entry fees. It's a great job for the right person.

My next task is to try and think of about a dozen questions for interview. Some are no-brainers, like "tell me more about what you're currently doing," or "why do you want this job?" and then there's good old-fashioned trick questions like "so what are you doing with the rest of your day?" but beyond that I've no idea. Is it too optimistic to shove in one about the social and medical models of disability? As ever, all help gratefully received.


Katie said...

Ooh - how exciting. Many congratulations. Scary, maybe. Brilliant, definitely. m

I've worked with PAs but never employed them directly. However, a close friend who does always uses the following question:

"If we were driving late at night and the car broke down in the middle of nowhere, what would you do?"

The correct answer to this question is, "I would ask you what you wanted me to do because you are in charge."

If someone gives that answer, she employs them on the spot! Another with a more severe level of impairment likes to ask,

"If you are preparing dinner for me and I ask you to microwave a ready meal which is two days beyond its best before date, what would you do?"

The correct answer here is, "I would inform you it's gone beyond it's best before date and if you still wanted me to cook it, I'd bang it in the microwave as per the cooking instructions."

Apparently, this one weeds out those who both think he's terribly fragile and worry about health and safety, and who don't follow his instructions.

It might be worth thinking of a question along those lines suited to your life. Basically, one that gets them to confirm that they understand you're in charge and they're playing by your rules.

Good luck!


Mary said...


See this is where I run head-first into a bit of a dichotomy. On the one hand, I want to be In Charge, and such is the nature of an employer/employee relationship.

On the other hand, part of what's in the job description is that my PA must be able to confidently take charge of a situation at a moment's notice when I am incapacitated (collapsed, extreme pain, petit-mal episode). I need someone capable of independent thought and action.

I'm tempted to go all Oxbridge on them - see here.

erasmus (aka jiva) said...

right. Sorry I've not replied earlier.
Can they clean to a decent level. You would be wise to test them.
where do their boundries lie in personal care?
explain you will need to trust them and gauge their trust by putting forward a few select examples of what could happen in a worst situation. Would they push you for 3 miles if needed, uphill.
really its about if you feel comfortable around that person being in your life and being useful and not just there to keep you company and have a cuppa. Because they are being paid you need to explain that payment should mean that they are being paid to be trusted with your upmost care.

Mary said...

Well, I've done a pretty comprehensive Job Description which details both help I will need, like washing the chlorine out of my hair after a swim, but also help I won't need, for instance that I don't need to be physically lifted in and out of a pool.

I also included a bit in the JD about how the role is not to be paid to be my friend and socialise with me, but to enable me to go out and socialise and make friends myself.

But you are right, it would be a good idea to go through the JD and check that they're up to speed with it.

Katie said...

So you need someone who can cope with you being in charge most of the time but is competent enough to take charge when you're not well enough.

I see the dichotomy. Be hopeful, though. Someone with the intelligence to understand that you're in charge is probably competent enough to take control when you're not able to.

After all, you'll still be in charge when incapacitated: your PA will be in control and may be making decisions, but always on the basis of what she knows you'd want her to do.

I don't know if that sentence made sense but I hope you get the general idea.

Not sure how you ensure you've got that person through interview. It's almost like you need the equivalent of a test drive before employing them...

Will come back if I have any bright ideas!

Mary said...

Well, there will be a probationary period at the beginning of the employment, so it's not like the interview is the only tool to make a final decision which can never be reversed.