Two hands touching knuckles, they are bother wearing latex gloves

A shout out to the PA’s – essential key workers 

7th May 2020

It’s been hugely heartening to see the public support for our NHS workers and the weekly clapping in the streets on a Thursday night. It’s also worth remembering the non NHS carers who are putting themselves at risk caring for the ill and vulnerable and all the other key workers who are helping to keep our country running.

This evening I will also be clapping for my own Personal Assistants and all the other PA’s who are essential key workers providing the support to people like me need in order to live independently.

In the 1970s the Independent Living Movement illustrated how empowerment can help disabled people to gain control over choice in their lives and take more responsibility for what was happening to them. Direct Payments came into force in the mid 1990s which gave disabled people the option to employ a Personal Assistant directly to enable them to be independent. Nowadays this has become the norm for disabled people and many of us employ PA’s.

I have employed a team of Personal Assistants for nearly 20 years. They are an integral part of my life and provide me with 24 hour support seven days a week, 365 days a year. They assist with personal care and all aspects of daily life. The relationship is interdependent whereby we both depend on one another in a problem capacity.

COVID 19 is restricting all of us in our daily lives. Offices, shops and schools are closed and those who can have been told to work and learn from home. But for me, and thousands of other disabled people, we depend on our PA’s to come to into work. My PA’s work shifts for me and they are key workers. I’m unable to manage without them so where do you draw the line at social distancing?

I have isolated myself from my friends and family which, like everybody, I find difficult. However, I am unable to implement social distancing with my PA’s, because of the nature of the assistance I need.

As any employer would, I provide a safe, clean work environment for my employees and I’m doing everything I can to keep us all safe. However, I am also conscious that once they leave my home I am not in control of where they go and who they are in contact with. Consequently there is an increased risk which does concern me.

I’m also short-staffed at the moment and need to recruit more PA’s. However, due to the government’s guidelines on social distancing this is very difficult. Cafes and offices where I would usually hold interviews are closed and I’m aware that people may be hesitant to come to work in somebody’s home at this time.

I value my independence and I want to remain as self-sufficient as possible but I’m aware that this could go on for months and that my personal situation could change at any moment. If I do become unwell it will be necessary to provide Personal Protective Equipment to my PA’s but accessing it could be tricky and as a private employer I am not entitled to any government support with this.

As for the PA’s themselves and other essential key workers, I know that some are currently isolating from their own families in order to continue working, whilst for others this is not a practical option and therefore they are putting their loved ones at risk. It’s a very difficult situation and one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer.

Do you have a PA / carer or someone that you rely on for day-to-day support? Or are you a carer for someone else?

How is the current situation impacting on your circumstances?

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

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