Hiring a personal assistant for care at home

This information applies to England and Wales.

There are a few ways you can hire a personal assistant (PA) to get the care and support you need at home.

Your local authority

What services your local authority offers will depend on your area and your needs.

Employing a PA for you

Your local authority may arrange and pay for your social care. This means they will manage everything for you.

It’s important to build a relationship with your PA and you have the right to choose who looks after you. You do not have to accept a PA your local authority provides.

PA registers

Some local authorities run services to help disabled people and PAs to meet. You can ask your local authority about personal assistant registers in your area. They might call this ‘brokerage’.

Your local authority may also help with things like recruitment, payroll and tax. Depending on your area, they may support you themselves or put you in touch with organisations that provide these services.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Care and support agencies

If you hire a personal assistant through a care and support agency, they will be the employer. This may be a good choice if you’re not confident being an employer yourself as they will manage everything for you.

Agencies can be paid through your:

  • local authority directly
  • local authority payments broker if available

Direct payments

Benefits of hiring PAs through an agency

If you use an agency to get your personal assistant, they will be the employer and they will:

  • manage salary and payroll
  • be responsible for employment rights like holiday and sick pay
  • sort out any issues with your PA, like misconduct or personality clashes
  • send a replacement if a PA is sick
  • have a pool of PAs to provide 24-hour care

Risks of hiring PAs through an agency

There are also some risks to using an agency:

  • Consistency can be difficult because of staff turnover.
  • You may have different staff coming to support you, sometimes at different times.
  • You may not have much control over who you have for your PA. For example, you may not be able to get the same PA regularly or a PA of your preferred gender.
  • How each PA cares for you may vary. Care might not be consistent, even with your support plan.
  • Your chosen agency may not be taking on new clients because of PA availability.
  • It may cost more. Agencies will take a fee or percentage of the PA's wage.

You might be able to choose an agency that has a contract with your local authority. Ask your local authority about this or for a list of care and support agencies in your area.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Employing your own PA

Being an employer can offer more flexibility and choice. But you will also be responsible for your personal assistant as an employee.

It's good practice to give a PA a contract on their first day of employment.

Employing staff (GOV.UK)

Find out which Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is right for your employee (GOV.UK)

Benefits of being an employer

Benefits can be:

  • having same person and choosing someone you are comfortable with
  • deciding your PA’s hours and which tasks they do, especially if you have several PAs
  • control over hiring and firing your PA
  • consistency of care and how things are done so they meet your needs

Risks of being an employer

Risks and challenges could include:

  • being responsible for employment rights, like salary, sick pay and holiday pay
  • difficulty recruiting, like finding the right person on short notice or to fit your specification and budget
  • being without care if your only PA is on holiday, off sick or if they quit unexpectedly
  • being in charge of contracts, tax, pension and payroll
  • managing issues with your PA yourself, like unprofessional behaviour or misconduct
  • difficulty organising a team of PAs or overnight care

Employing a PA

Managing problems with your PA

Employment rights (GOV.UK)

Using a mix of care services

You can use a mix of local authority support, agency or being an employer. A mix of services could involve getting help with recruitment but being an independent employer.

Agencies can also help to supplement care if you need several PAs but you want some control over who you hire. The agency may also be able to provide care if the PA you employ is unavailable, like for holiday leave or if they’re sick.

Your local authority has to provide some personal care assistance and independent living services. But the type and flexibility of services will vary for each area.

Talk to your assessor about what the options are and what will suit you and your needs.

Deciding on the best option

It’s up to you which option you decide to go with. There is no right or wrong way.

Some people decide to employ an agency first to help them to get started. When they feel more comfortable and confident with the process, they move on to hire their own PA.

Factors that can help you decide could be:

  • budget
  • level of your control
  • confidence to manage admin
  • what’s available to you

Consider the benefits against the financial and personal cost. It’s important to balance the needs that affect your safety with the needs that affect your wellbeing. Ask yourself what you want.

Think about what you must have and what you’re willing to compromise on. What is more important to you? Are there other ways to get what you want?

For example:

Do you want the control of choosing your PA and having people you know and trust?

Do you want an agency to manage the admin?

Could using a payroll service help you to employ a PA rather than hiring an agency?

Consider whether the local authority, an agency or hiring your own PA will best meet these needs.

For example:

Do you need 24-hour care, multiple PAs and care cover at short notice?

Find out what services are available in your area to help you to get the right support. You could do this through online searches, looking on your local authority website or speaking to your care co-ordinator.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Training for employing a PA

Help to employ a PA

You can ask your care co-ordinator for guidance on where you can get training or practical support for being an employer.

Your support plan may include funding to train your PA if it’s considered as needed for you to get the right support. You will need to talk to your social worker about this.

Skills for Care has the following guides:

Skills for being an employer

If you want help with skills like being assertive, managing stress or budgeting, you could look for services that offer adult education.

These could be:

  • disabled people’s organisations in your area
  • community groups or classes
  • educational groups like the adult education service
  • local or online courses or talks

You can find information about these from leaflets or adverts in your doctor’s surgery, local newspaper or magazine, or on message boards at community centres, town halls, libraries and even supermarkets. Others you may be able to find online. Some may be free and others you might need to pay for.

Support services for employing PAs

Talk to your social worker or social care services to find out about local support organisations. They may give you some leaflets or directories of organisations that can help.

You can also try to find support services from:

Or take a look at online advice and support:

Being in control: Getting Personal Assistants (Disability Rights UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 04/12/2023

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