Donna Murray has been a personal assistant for 20 years. She now supports a family with a young son who has autism and complex needs.
“We learn together using play, we go to the movies, the skate park (I am not good on a board!) walk the dogs and we love the Edinburgh Festival.
“We have fun together; he feels safe and supported and his mum gets a break. I’ve also provided support at school to help with transitions. Every day is different and what we do depends on how he feels, what he wants to do, what happened at school or at home. It’s very personalised, flexible, responsive and creative.
“I have been a personal assistant working with different people for 20 years including being a volunteer at a swimming class for disabled people while a student, a summer camp volunteer in America for children with life limiting conditions and in Africa with children with learning disabilities who had HIV. The importance of equality, compassion and providing opportunities and support to enable people to live the life they want, are the most valuable lessons I learned.
“I have since been lucky enough to use the skills I learned to work for disability-led charities, local authority equality units, higher-education, wellbeing teams and recently helping to recruit and support other personal assistants to help provide care and support in remote rural areas where there is little choice.
Donna shares what she enjoys most about being a personal assistant:
“Being a personal assistant is both a privilege and an opportunity to work in a personalised, flexible and creative way. It’s about relationships and respect and can be challenging as well as totally rewarding. It can be for a few hours a month or a full time position and you can support one person or many in their home and in the community. There are no set qualifications for being a personal assistant but as you begin your personal assistant career you will want to know how and where to get training to provide the best support you can. It could be learning more about a particular communication system, understanding mental health, challenging behaviour or dementia or being confident in adult support and protection.
“A personal assistant pathway can take you on many routes through health and social care and for me I have never been disappointed. I’m always inspired and hopefully I will have the opportunity to offer support for many more years.”
The Personal Assistants Network Scotland website was created for people who work directly for the person they support. The website also promotes learning opportunities and job vacancies.
The Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network (SPAEN) website provides information and support for people who want to employ personal assistants.
Self Directed Support Scotland (SDSS) has launched a new Personal Assistant Employer Handbook which can be used by potential and current personal assistant employers and social care professionals.