Over the past seven years of employing PAs, I’ve had some excellent employees, some dreadful ones, and the rest have been somewhere in the middle – with great strengths, but also weaknesses. I’ve also learned that the same is true of me as an employer – there are things I’m good at, but there are also things I’m very bad at.
Early in my time as a PA employer, I used to hire friends. Some of them were great matches for me, but us being friends made for a difficult relationship. I’ve discovered when I employ friends the same series of problems occur each time: punctuality, being able to take instruction from me as the person that decides what I want to do and what assistance I need, and them doing what’s needed, not what they want to do,
When I started out, I’d barely even worked jobs, I had no experience in management, and I knew nothing about how various health and social care tasks were meant to be undertaken. It was only through trial and error that I learned how to become an employer and how to get my needs met, and I made some fairly crucial errors on the way, including once lending a PA a lot of money, and being in a very uncomfortable situation as a result.
In many ways, I think this is the greatest weakness of the direct payments scheme. Often disabled people are set free with some sort of budget to manage, some sort monitoring process and an insurance company, and are left to make our own way through the employment market. This is part of why I’m writing this series. I hope to discuss funding models in depth later on, but my priority is to write something to help other people like me work out how to make having PAs work for them. I know that needing PAs has been very bad for my mental health – it’s really difficult to take on responsibility for creating someone else’s work environment the way I’ve had to – but it can also be very rewarding.
When employing PAs goes right, I feel like I’m soaring. I have the support I need in place, and I can focus on moving on and progressing with my life. I’m not being limited by bad rotas or inappropriate care. The PAs working with me are committed and hard-working, and everything’s going well. Writing this series, I want to work out how to capture that feeling, and share it.