Training and Support for Personal Assistants

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2010 Local Government Service Group Conference
19 February 2010

UNISON represents over 300,000 members working in all aspects of social care. It is now over 10 years since direct payments were first introduced for adults of working age. More recently they were extended to older people and to carers and parents of disabled children. It is estimated that there are now over 55,000 direct payment recipients in the UK and the great majority of them use their payment to employ personal assistants (PAs). Yet relatively little is known about this growing workforce.

UNISON is very concerned about the pay and working conditions of personal assistants. There are no national guidelines. If local authorities set direct payments too low personal assistants end up getting lower pay and worse conditions than care staff employed by the council, or by care companies and charities. We are particularly worried that most personal assistants don’t have the chance to join an occupational pension scheme or to access regular training and career progression opportunities.

Members in Further Education College do a wide variety of jobs, including personal care for students with learning difficulties and disabilities and many of these members may also have an additional job as a PA. We need to gather accurate information about the employment of personal assistants so that we can campaign to ensure that they receive fair treatment. We also want to look at ways of supporting them to get together with other personal assistants to compare notes and build networks.

UNISON believes that one of the priority areas that must be addressed before any significant expansion of direct payments is taken forward is the question of quality training for members employed as PAs.

Further education colleges deliver thousands of high quality training courses for workers in the social care sector. However, as funding in FE becomes more and more squeezed, then the onus for training staff is being put upon the employer. Some of these employers are very reluctant to train their staff adequately if they have to foot the bill.

This reluctance to pay for training their workers will have a direct impact on both the service user and the carer as poor quality or no training can result in serious injury and even death.

Therefore, we call on the Local Government SGE to work with regions and branches to:

1)Campaign for GSCC registration for PA’s and the development of professional qualifications

2)Campaign for the statutory enforcement of the Code of Practice for Social Care Employers so that employers are held to account for their responsibilities to skill and equip their workers to deliver high standards, just as workers are held to account against their professional code

3)Work in partnership with organisations such as Skills for Care to promote PA training

4)Campaign for a specific training/skills allowance to be introduced as part of the personal budget so that PA’s receive professional skills and development

5)Campaign for the inclusion of specific requirements on qualifications and training in any revised National Minimum Standards for care, extending targets for NVQ2, introducing requirements for the provision of NVQ 3 training and other core training requirements.