The disabled cross-party peer, Baroness Campbell, has spoken out about her fears for the loss of independence for disabled people caused by a shortage of personal assistants. The BBC reports that about 70,000 disabled people in England rely on personal assistants, or PAs, to help them live independent lives, and avoid going into a care home. 

The PA can either be funded privately, or via an arrangement with the local authority. The Disability Rights organisation explains that since the Care Act 2014 came in force, local authorities in England are obliged to help arrange services which promote the independence of disabled people.

This includes offering to provide a personal budget when the criteria are met (following a needs assessment), which can be managed by the recipient to pay for care needs, including employing a PA. 

The duties of the PA can involve any tasks which allow the disabled person to live in their own home, such as personal care and hygiene, household chores, meal preparation, and transport. They may also assist with paperwork, attending medical appointments, educational or training activities, and a variety of other duties.

However, over the past few years, it has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain PAs. This has led some disabled people to give up activities they enjoy, or manage with less frequent showering than they are used to.

Baroness Campbell, a veteran disability campaigner, told the BBC: “The situation is so bad I fear disabled people will be forced back into living in instructional settings. Most of us escaped from them in the 1970s to live independent lives. We don’t want to go back.”

She also added that the situation has become much worse since Brexit, because PAs are not classed as skilled workers, and therefore are not eligible for a visa to work in the UK. The Baroness said: “We need workers from Europe to be able to return to this country to make up the shortage of personal assistants.”

The Department of Health and Social Care commented that it already had plans in place to tackle the situation, including new recruitment campaigns to raise awareness of adult social care roles. Although care workers are on the occupational shortage list, only organisations, rather than individuals, can arrange visas.

Wheelchair user Katy Etherington told the BBC that the role of PA is more varied than many people assume, and you can end up travelling the world in some cases: “It’s not just about helping someone get up in the morning. It could be going on a four month cruise around the world, which is what I did with my PA.”

She added: “We’ve seen PAs say that they’ve left to go and work in a coffee house or as a dog walker because they earn more. We need to inspire people to become PAs. You get to do things that you never would normally do.”

Katy suggests that there needs to be greater public awareness and recognition of what being a PA involves, as well as more general understanding of disability issues, right up to government level.

If you are looking for heavy duty mobility scooters, please get in touch today.