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The Charleyz Angelz of social care - sharing good practice

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Charley Zakrzewski has been an individual employer for seven years. She employs a team of seven personal assistants (PAs) called the ‘Charleyz Angelz’, who support her and her husband Paul.

Being an individual employer has enabled her to be more independent and she’s committed to ensuring her team are supported to provide the best care and support they can.

Last year Charley was a finalist at our Accolades awards in the ‘Best individual who employs their own care and support’ category. These awards celebrate individual employers who are committed to developing their own and their PAs skills and knowledge.

Here, Charley tells us what makes her a great employer.

Recruiting PAs

Charley has worked with previous and current PAs to create her ideal job advert. She ensures that the job description is honest and detailed so that potential applicants know exactly what role involves. This helps her to find the right people for the job, the first time.

She uses a range of websites to advertise vacancies including care-specific job sites, the local council’s jobs page and job sites such as Totaljobs and Reed.

When interviewing, she gives each applicant the same information and asks them the same questions so everyone’s given an equal opportunity and so she can easily compare their suitability – she asks questions to find out what they’re like as a person and whether they’d fit in well with her team.

Support for new PAs

When new PAs join Charley’s team they do a three week induction which is very hands-on.

During the first week they shadow experienced PAs to find out more about Charley and what support she needs. This also gives them the chance to ask questions. In the second week they start to do tasks themselves under supervision from other PAs, and in the final week they start working independently.

New PAs also get an employee handbook and access to Google Drive where they can download care plans, how-to videos and health and safety information.

During these early days, Charley gives regular feedback via email and face to face meetings. They discuss what’s going well and if her PAs need any more support, for example further training.

Developing her PAs

Charley’s committed to ensuring that her PAs have the right skills and knowledge to do their job well.

She reviews her team every month to see if they need any more training, and works closely with her medical team and local college to ensure her they get up to date training that’s personalised to her care and support needs.

She applied for funding to pay for this training through Skills for Care’s individual employer fund. Thanks to this funding Charley can pay for in-house training and clinical care certificates that are tailored to her needs, to continually develop her PAs.

Managing a team of PAs

Charley takes an open approach to managing her team of PAs – she ensures that they can voice their opinions and concerns in one to one meetings and has an anonymous suggestion box. She regularly communicates with her team through a weekly email, monthly supervision and quarterly appraisal.

As well as discussing their own role, Charley asks for regular feedback about herself as an employer. This encourages her and her team to continuously improve.

She welcomes her PAs to talk about any personal problems that might impact their work, whilst keeping a professional relationship. She says:

“I do not go over boundaries but I do help my staff when they need it, as I know that if personal problems arise this can affect work.”

Her PAs admire this approach and it helps them to perform better in their role. One of them said:

“Knowing she is there to talk to allows us to deal with all problems and move forward in a positive way. Knowing that your employer cares boosts moral and helps encourage us to go that extra mile for her, as she does for us.”

Being a good employer

Above all, Charley prioritises that her staff are treated fairly. One of her PAs said:

“She fights incredibly hard to keep the care hours high enough to meet her care needs, whilst allowing the [PAs] the appropriate workload, without over working us.”

She’s also committed to providing them with a good hourly wage, weekend rate and annual leave entitlement. She says:

“Making sure my girls have what they need is the most important thing.”

Charley strongly believes in looking after her team of PAs and shows that she values and appreciates them. When they’ve done a good job or go the extra mile she sends them a thank you card or an appreciation email. They also run an ‘employee of the month’, go on day trips and have a Christmas party where everyone gets an award for their hard work. One of her PAs said:

“She tries hard to keep work fun and always thanks us for our good job.”

From experience, Charley knows that making her PAs feels valued means they’re more likely to stay working with her. She said:

 “Allowing them to talk to me about their personal problems and being flexible with rota changes makes staff feel appreciated, and this means they will go above and beyond for us.

“… I know that employee appreciation from an employer boosts morale and keeps my rota and business going.”

Find out more

If you get a social care or health budget and want to know more about employing your own PAs, visit the 'Information for individual employers' section of the  information hub.