Cerebral Palsy
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Improving the role of Personal Assistants

SystemSystem Posts: 470 Scope community team
This discussion was created from comments split from: Hi, I'm Richard - ask me questions about CP.

Replies

  • rmw76rmw76 Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Dear Richard

    My name is Richard Whelan.  I am 41 years old and have cerebral palsy which affects movement in my arms and legs that I have had since birth.  Despite this, I am compis mentis, able to make decisions for myself and crucially take responsibility for the decisions I make.  I can communicate clearly and have a university education. Healthwise there is nothing wrong with me: I am fit and healthy and don't have any health conditions associated with my disability.
     
    My reason for contacting you is that I do not think serious consideration has been given to both the type and level of assistance people with disabilities require in their transition from complusory education to employment. Prior to the early 1980's for example, when I first went to school, disabled people largely went to specialist schools specifically for them and once they reached the end of their complusory education they were effectively institutionalised for the rest of their lives. Very few got a job and fewer still went to university and got a graduate level job such as a lawyer, teacher or social worker.
     
    Things began to change when the Thatcher government encouraged parents of disabled children to send their child to mainstream schools. This was a revolutionary change to what had gone before but I don't think it has been fully appreciated, especially by those in commerce and politics, what the impact of such a change has been. For disabled children who attend mainstream schools tend to perform better then they otherwise would have done had they gone to specialist schools. Why? Because in seeing their able-bodied friends succeed it gives them inspiration to also succeed and they do succeed. They get good GCSE's, go on to get good 'A' levels and go to university and get a good degree. Aged 21 or 22, when they have successfully completed their degree courses, these disabled individuals are motivated and want graduate level jobs so that they can begin a career in their chosen professions.
     
    It is here where the problems begin through a misunderstanding of what the problem actually entails. Many career advisors, either at job centres or in university career departments, think that the problem of disabled graduates failing to find work can easily be resolved by helping them prepare better applications, improve their interview techniques, including applying for the Guaranteed Interview Scheme, and helping them prepare for tasks that are likely to come up at an assessment centre. While such preparations do help they do not resolve the one issue that holds potential employers back from employing disabled people: namely that there is a view that they cannot do the job because they are disabled, and that they will have to incur extra costs, either by employing personal assistants to assist disabled people in the workplace, or by employing an extra employee to cover for a disabled person's absence if, for example, they have to endure long periods in hospital because of their condition.
     
    Such fears are not grounded in reality because as you know Access to Work can pay for the cost of employing a Personal Assistant to assist a disabled person in the workplace with administrative tasks. But while the fear exists, due to ignorance by employers of the financial support that is on offer to disabled people in employing their own Personal Assistants in the workplace, it is my view that disabled people will continually fail to find work or hold a job down for long enough in order to secure promotion.
     
    I don't want to leave you with the impression that educating employers about the current system of financial support for assisting disabled people is the panacea that will resolve all these problems. To my mind the system is itself at fault because it restricts what a Personal Assistant can do in this context to mainly administrative tasks. It doesn't take a more holistic approach to a disabled person's workplace needs because it assumes that if a disabled person is to work they will be confined to an office based job where a carer can come throughout the day to assist with their personal care needs while events/meetings away from the office is kept to a minimum.  Working life, particularly at a graduate level, is not like this and if a disabled person is to succeed in the workplace any Personal Assistant will need to assist them with these additional, often personal care related, tasks to ensure that they carry out their duties effectively while they are at work.
     
    That is why the role of Personal Assistants needs to be developed to include all aspects of a disabled person's life, not just the provision of social care in the home, out socialising, or purely administrative support in the workplace and academic support at university. I recognise that such a development will necessitate a reappraisal of training requirements for Personal Assistants compared to what currently exists based on the enhanced set of duties that will be expected of the role. It will also necessitate finding new and innovate ways of funding that include, not just the standard practice of using a direct payment or personal budget through local social services departments, or even using this in combination with Access to Work or Disabled Students Allowance, depending on whether the disabled person in question is a worker or student, but it may also include the need to aquire funds from the private or voluntary sectors to pay Personal Assistants an increased salary that recognises the enhanced duties they will be expected to perform.
     
    Do you know of anyone who would be willing to help me find a way of developing the role of Personal Assistants so that in future disabled people are fully supported with all aspects of their lives, including work, to ensure they live as independently as possible? 
     
    I would be more than willing to discuss the issues I have raised in this e-mail further with you if you think this would help. Please let me know how you think it would be best to proceed.
     
    I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
     
    With kind regards
    Richard Whelan
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Administrator Posts: 2,245 Scope community team
    Hi @rmw76
    Thank you for your post and good to speak with you.
    I agree that the transition from study to work can be more difficult than it needs to be. I have been very fortunate to have always been in employment despite my Cerebral Palsy and use of a wheelchair. I am also acutely aware that this is not the case for many.

    I'm really interested to hear your ideas about expanding the role of Personal Assistants. Obviously, the main stumbling block to that would be as always, funding.

    I look forward to speaking with further.
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 
  • rmw76rmw76 Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Richard,

    Thank you for getting in touch. 

    I agree with you that funding will always be a stumbling block.  That is why I talk about finding new and innovate ways to fund the employment and development of Personal Assistants so that they can help disabled people with all aspects of their lives, not just social care in its narrowest of senses.

    The fact that expanding the role of Personal Assistants maybe difficult because of funding doesn't mean to say we shouldn't try.

    My hope was to bring together service users, carers, care managers and representatives of disability charities like Scope to discuss how this is possible to achieve.  Maybe those who are interested could form a Community Interest Company specifically for this task.

    What do you think?  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts specifically with regards to where I can find these individuals.

    Richard
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Administrator Posts: 2,245 Scope community team
    edited June 2018
    I think it is a good idea @rmw76. I am not suggesting that it should not be attempted. I will include a link to the Scope Employment Team and I can also put you in contact with START Ability Services who are hosts of the Association of Disabled Professionals and the Disabled Entrepreneurs Network. I think these are really good starting points.
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 
  • rmw76rmw76 Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Richard

    That's great!  Who should I contact at START Ability Services and what are their contact details?

    Please let me know so that I can get in contact them.

    Thank you.

    Richard Whelan
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Administrator Posts: 2,245 Scope community team
    Hi @rmw76
    Here is the link to the contact page. The person you could ask for is Kath Sutherland who is the founder of START Ability Services. I met Kath at the recent Naidex Conference, very inspirational!
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 
  • rmw76rmw76 Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Richard

    Thank you very much for this information.  It is much appreciated.

    Richard
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Administrator Posts: 2,245 Scope community team
    No problem!

    Keep in touch.
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 
  • SystemSystem Posts: 470 Scope community team
    This discussion was created from comments split from: Hi, I'm Richard - ask me questions about CP.
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