On 27 July 2011, the DH published a document entitled Working for personalised care: a framework for supporting personal assistants working in adult social care. The document states that “the Government is committed to personalised and social care services and is determined that all those eligible for support will have the opportunity to receive a personal budget by 2013”.

The document provides a framework for supporting the development of a personal assistants workforce and support for their employers over the next five years and beyond. The framework uses best practice evidence and examples taken from a number of different local authorities with regard to gaining a better understanding of how personal assistants work and the type of support they require. The document looks at the following matters:  

  • recruitment and retention of personal assistants;
  • learning and development;
  • supporting personal assistants and their employers; and
  • enabling risk management.  

The framework also looks at and attempts to provide a wider understanding of personal assistant working and how to help the employers of personal assistants to better understand their needs by “determining the qualities they want from employees, in order to build strong and positive working relationships”.

It is noted that at present there are few formal qualifications for personal assistants and it is suggested that this leads to personal assistants moving on to other work that has a clear training process and where they can gain nationally recognised qualifications. For this reason, it is felt to be important for personal assistants to be supported to undertake training and for local authorities to encourage creative and innovative community based learning and development solutions which will assist them in their learning and development. The framework states that the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and other sector partners should be consulted on support and funding for learning and development for both employers and personal assistants.

The push now to try and support and retain the use of personal assistants has come about due to the requirement of the Government for more social care clients to have an opportunity to receive a personal budget by 2013. It is likely that, with the indications that the Government is intending to support and promote the use of direct payments for health (following completion of the pilot schemes and the push for personalisation of health budgets), this may lead to similar provisions and a similar framework being used to try and promote the use of personal assistants for health clients.

Obviously, such personal assistants, if providing health services, may require health training and the decision as to what this training should involve and who should be responsible for payment for such training would need to be made. In times of increasing financial hardship these may be difficult questions.