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Personal Assistant development opportunities

How to get ahead as ... a personal assistant in care

Senior couple outdoors in autumnKevin Lewis has always looked after his older brother Richard, who has cerebral palsy. Helping with his day-to-day needs was just part of normal family life. But six years ago, Lewis's caring role changed when he became a personal assistant – one of a team employed directly by his brother to provide 24-hour bespoke care.

"I was born into caring. I just mucked in. It's something I have always done but I hadn't seen it as a career path, " says 33-year-old Lewis, who lives in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. He became a personal assistant when he was between shop assistant jobs at the same time as his mother, who had been caring for Richard, fell ill.

He says: "It's a very rewarding job. It's knowing that you are making a difference to somebody's life. It's a job which is all about relationships and the end game is about enabling somebody do the things they want to do. There is a big element of trust involved."

The change in role from family carer to employee was something both brothers had to adjust to. "It was difficult for us at first. It's about organising how you do things and what hat you are wearing at certain times – are you now being my boss or my brother?"

Lewis is one of a growing number of people who have chosen to become personal assistants – directly employed by adults with social care needs who have their own personal budget to create their own care plan.

According to Skills for Care, the number of adults with social care needs who receive direct payments and the number of personal assistants employed in the sector have both risen by 15% in the past year. The council says that while the upward trend is likely to continue, it remains to be seen whether the rate of growth is maintained.

There is no specific qualification for becoming a personal assistant, because the role varies according to the needs of the individual being supported, who writes the job description.

But a charity in Cheshire is hoping its pilot scheme will help create a national apprenticeship route for personal assistants, giving them access to the same learning and development opportunities of their peers working in other care settings.

The pilot includes 11 personal assistants in Cheshire – including Lewis – who have completed or are in the process of completing a flexible level 2 or level 3 apprenticeship in health and social care, which is delivered in the home of their employer.

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