Around 70,000 people in England employ a personal assistant (PA), usually through taking a Direct Payment or Personal Health Budget.

Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) set to find out PA employers experiences of PA recruitment and retention between March 2020 and January 2022.

The results have been published as part of a new report, The forgotten workforce: Recruiting and retaining personal assistants.

The report is the result of an online survey with people supported by a personal assistant to explore the issues they faced.

Nearly 1,000 people participated. People told TLAP that PA recruitment has got harder, both in terms of a shortage of applicants and their suitability for the work. Low pay, poor terms and conditions, and restrictions on what people can pay are the primary drivers for this, alongside the challenges of the COVID pandemic.

Key findings of the survey:

  • 77% of people who had needed to recruit a PA had found it more difficult.
  • 69% said people were taking jobs with better pay rather than PA jobs.
  • 59% think it’s harder to find PAs with the right skills, values or training.
  • 88% detailed multiple negative impacts on them of the pandemic.
  • Of those who needed to use agencies, 66% think it’s been harder to find workers, and 62% have found it more expensive.
  • Low pay, poor terms and conditions and insufficient hours were key factors in PAs leaving.
  • 44% of people think it’s been harder to retain their PAs since March 2020, whilst 47% said it was about the same.

Recommendations from the survey:

  • The most urgent action is for funders to enable PA pay to reflect local market conditions.
  •  Greater transparency about how direct payment or personal health budgets are arrived at is needed, and this should include the costs related to finding and employing PAs.
  • Funders should place fewer restrictions on how direct payments and personal health budgets can be used by people supported by a PA.
  • Local and central government and the NHS need to offer more help with PA recruitment, training and employment advice.
  • Commissioners need more quality assurance and better oversight of their local PA market. They should be also proactive in checking the quality, reliability and standard of support from those they commission to assist people supported by PAs.

The full report is available to view here (open in a new window).