Your perfect PA?

Samantha Renke shares her experiences of looking for a Personal Assistant, and offers her top tips to help you find support that suits

A selfie of Samantha with her PA, Fay. Samantha wears a mint green top and Fay wears a black top. Both of them wear gold hoop earrings and have their hair down - Samantha has blonde hair and Fay has dark brown hair. They are visible from their shoulders up.
Samantha with her PA, Fay.

Moving home is undoubtedly the most stressful part of adulting. Aside from the normal upheaval that comes from relocating, having a disability means added admin and logistical issues. For me, the most challenging part of any move is hiring a new PA (Personal Assistant). 

After leaving university and living independently for the first time in 2018, I applied for Direct Payments via my local authority, so I could employ a PA. Over the years, I’ve had at least ten different people work with me. I’ve gone from privately hiring (and being the employer) to working with a care agency who took over the management side of things.

Some PAs have worked out really well, some not so much! However, with each person, I’ve learned something new about how I’d like my PA to assist me, and about my own boundaries and needs. 

Finding a PA can be intimidating and leave you feeling vulnerable. You’re inviting a stranger into your space and having to trust they have your best interests at heart. It’s not an experience many can relate to, which means we’re often left without support or guidance. 

Perhaps I can help ease some of that concern by sharing my own top tips for onboarding?

 1. Ask! 

If you’re moving from one local authority to another and there’s a gap in your new support package being approved, ask your previous authority to cover the shortfall. They may say they don’t offer this, but please push back on them. 

2. Don’t rush. 

Let’s face it, care work is underpaid and undervalued. You may feel you need to accept any application, in case no one else applies. But don’t hire for the sake of hiring you need someone you get on with and feel safe with. An established care agency can also help by providing a temp. 

3. Change the narrative. 

Care is often packaged to favour the employee, not the service user. Introducing the Social Model early on has been helpful for me. Highlight that your priorities must come first and, although you’ll always act professionally, you’re not there to accommodate their schedule or personal responsibilities. 

4. Communicate.

Communication is key to any successful relationship. Due to poor communication, I’ve previously had PAs leave for other work or university, which comes as a huge shock. I now have regular check-ins with my PA to ask how they’re doing and if there are any areas we can both work on. 

Follow Samantha on Instagram @SamanthaRenke

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