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How to be a great individual employer

Photo Accolades 2018 winner

Christina Candey employs a team of personal assistants (PAs) to support her, and won the Skills for Care Accolade award for ‘Best individual who employs their own care and support staff’.

This award recognises the achievements of individual employers who effectively recruit, manage and train their personal assistants (PAs) so that they can live the life that they want.

Employing your own PAs gives you the choice and control over how you’re supported, and has made such as difference to Christina – it’s enabled her to be more independent. She likes to be involved in every aspect of her care and support to ensure that it’s tailored around what she wants and needs, and has a committed team that enables her to do this.

Here she shares some of her advice about what makes her a great individual employer. 

Recruiting PAs 

Christina’s been employing PAs for 18 years and is involved in the whole recruitment process.

She knows what she wants and writes this in her job descriptions and adverts so that people who apply have realistic expectations of the job role – this helps to reduce the number of ‘drop outs’ who realise the role isn’t for them once they’ve started.

She works closely with Surrey Independent Living Council (SILC) to advertise vacancies on their PA finder website, as well as advertising in local shops and online such as Gumtree.

Christina asks people who are interested to fill in an application form and does an initial phone interview to get to know them, before selecting suitable candidates for a face to face interview. With the support of another person, Christina has a structured process where all candidates answer the same questions, but is flexible enough so she can ask further questions to ‘dig deeper’ if she wants to know more.

A key part of the interview process is to find people with the right ‘values’ who can work within her agreed ways of working, for example are they reliable and honest? Christina then selects the right candidate for the role. She says: “I have also learnt that it is best not to take on a PA just out of desperation, as they may not work to my values.”

This approach has been successful as all of her current PAs have worked for her for over three years.

When new PAs start their role, Christina ensures they benefit from an in-depth induction so they know what she expects from them.

Learning and development for PAs

Christina works with SILC’s Training Team to do a ‘learning needs analysis’ which identifies what learning and development her PAs need.

Most of the training is in-house and face to face so that it can be tailored to Christina’s individual needs and they can discuss it as a team. They’ve done lots of training including person-centred care, dignity and respect, safeguarding, moving and positioning, pressure ulcer care, communication.

In particular, having bespoke training around moving and positioning has had a positive impact on Christina’s everyday life – she and her PAs are much more aware of how to protect themselves and others.

With the help of SILC’s training, Christina applied for Skills for Care’s individual employer fund, to pay for her team to do this training.

“Without the funding from Skills for Care, none of this learning would have taken place or can take place in the future”

“I encourage all individual employers to find a good learning provider who will listen to their individual needs, and then apply for funding through Skills for Care.”

Managing a team of PAs

Christina wants to continue to develop herself as a great employer and attends ‘Good boss’ sessions with SILC. This helps her to keep up to date with legislation, for example employment law and payroll, and develop her own skills. She told us:

“As an employer I know that I have high standards and always have a full plan for each shift. I try to be organised and on top of everything. I ask my PAs to do things the way that I would do them. This includes multi-tasking as we go along to clean and tidy small things that I have noticed.

“I do want to get better at articulating my wishes more clearly and reduce my frustration. I need to spend more time with my PAs helping them to understand that what to them might be a 'silly' thing, for me is really important."

She also tries to make it a ‘fun’ role to work in – she understands that PAs have a life outside of work and tries to accommodate this in her rota.

Supervising her PAs

She has regular supervisions with her PAs, both individually and as a team, which are facilitated by SILC. This helps them to maintain professional boundaries and discuss sensitive issues in a meaningful and productive way. This has helped Christina and her team to work better together.

"About half way through our first group supervision I realised that some of the things I want to talk to my PA's about are going to be really hard for me because it's about me and I take it personally. 

Having Hillary’s support at supervisions has helped me to plan and prepare so I can address things in a more professional manner."

Find out more

If you employ your own personal care assistants using a care or health budget, and are committed to their learning and development, enter Skills for Care’s Accolades awards.

The category for ‘Best individual who employs their own care and support staff’ celebrates great individual employers who effectively recruit, manage and train their personal assistants (PAs) so that they can live the life that they want.

It’s a great way to recognise and celebrate the hard work you and your PAs do every day.

Find out more and apply at www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Accolades.