Q&A with PA Pool Founder Katy Etherington

PA Pool Katy EtheringtonWe recently posed a series of questions to PA Pool Founder Katy Etherington about her experiences employing a PA (Personal Assistant/Carer).

If you’re not already familiar with PA Pool, it’s a dedicated website for disabled people looking to employ a PA and PAs looking for work. PA Pool is a market leader in its field, offering members the facility to interactively manage their own recruitment or employment. You can learn more and find out how it works here.

Take a look at Katy’s responses below.

1. What is a Personal Assistant (PA) and what do they do?

I think it’s very important to highlight the difference between a carer and a PA. Carers do the necessary tasks to ensure you are comfortable, safe and looked after. They meet people’s basic needs. PAs do this as well, but also support people outside the remit of healthcare and enable them to live life the way they choose. A PA is flexible and adaptable to each individual’s needs whereas the role of a carer is more prescriptive and constrained by fixed routines. So in a nutshell, the role of a PA is an enabler, our arms and legs!

2. What does having a PA mean for you?

Having a PA enables me to live rather than just exist. I am able to live the life I choose, just like everyone else. If I hadn’t have had PAs, I wouldn’t have been able get a job, work, travel, contribute to society and ultimately be me!

3. Positive Personal Stories about PAs

I went on a 4-month cruise around the world – something which would never have been possible without the support of a PA.

4. Where did you find your latest PA(s)?

I’ve was lucky enough not to need to recruit any new PAs for the past two years, but when I needed to in a hurry recently, PA Pool came to my rescue! I had a new team in the space of a month!

5. What route did you take, agency or employing your own PA?

I’ve had live-in PAs for 24 years. In my initial few years of having PAs, before I was put on direct payments I was forced to use an agency so I didn’t have much choice in who was sent to me and how long they stayed with me. Sometimes they couldn’t find me anyone at all which resulted in my Mum having to step in. Not an ideal situation. When I finally had the funds to employ my own PAs I quickly realised the time-consuming nature of recruitment and in those days there were no dedicated places to advertise for a PA. From that frustration I came up with the idea for PA Pool – a website which connects those who wish to employ PAs with PAs looking for work. Since then I have employed my own PAs.

6. How long does a PA normally work with you for?

It very much varies. I’ve had some PAs who have stayed with me for 6-7 years. Many PAs work as a stop gap to save money and eventually want to move on to do other things. Being a live-in PA is an intensive role, after all they are living your life rather than their own while they are working, so for many it’s not a sustainable career long term. There is always a need for new recruits.

7. What does a life without a PA look like for you?

Lifeless! PAs are the foundation of my existence. Without a solid foundation you can’t build anything on top.

8. Is being a PA a skilled role?

Yes it is, but it’s a role which requires more than just qualifications and experience. It takes a special type of person to be a PA. I think having the right personal qualities is often the key to being a good PA and sometimes more important than training certificates.

9. Are people struggling to recruit PAs?

Yes, since Brexit we have lost approximately a third of our workers. Plus for many of us, our funding is not enough to cover increases in wage expectations. After last Christmas, foreign care workers were made eligible for fast-track UK visas. Minister for Care, Gillian Keegan, said, “This change will support getting more people into care as we implement our long-term strategy for a fair and sustainable care sector that meets the needs of everyone.” But it doesn’t meet my needs or the needs of anyone wanting to be direct employers of PAs from abroad. We desperately need the Government to create a non-sponsored visa route for individual employers and PAs to use.

10. What can we do to attract more people to the profession?

I think firstly we need to differentiate the difference between a PA and regular social care jobs which are more familiar. PAs can earn more working with private clients. They can be self-employed which gives greater flexibility as they can choose when and how long they work for. Secondly the role of a PA is varied and can offer the chance for many new experiences – for example, as I mentioned earlier, one of my PAs came on a 4-month cruise around the world with me! Then another was featured alongside me in a TV episode I was being filmed for. And quite often my PAs come to the cinema or concerts with me. There aren’t many professions which provide opportunities to do things like that whilst you’re working!