Personal Assistance in Independent living – The Role of a Personal Assistant

Frank Larkin Accessible LetterkennyFor many people with a disability, personal assistance in Independent living is hugely important. Also however, given the social, physical and attitudinal barriers in our world, achieving such independence can often be frustratingly difficult. Many people with disabilities require a ‘personal assistant’ in order that they can live their lives in the same way that everyone else does. To all intents and purposes personal assistance in Independent living and a personal assistant for a person with a disability is an extension of oneself.

Personal Assistant or Carer
It is important to be able to understand the difference between a personal assistant & a carer. The main difference is that a carer “does chores for you, where as on the other hand a personal assistant assists you to do the things you need to do yourself. With a personal assistant you (the person with the disability) are in control and are directing the service you are receiving.

For example if your “carer” is working with you they actually do the chores (usually personal or household chores) they don’t necessarily take instruction from you. On the other hand personal assistance is more about being able to live in a manner of your own choosing. To give an idea of how diverse the role of a personal assistant can be “ it can literally vary from assisting someone to get out of bed in the morning to assisting someone in the college they attend (possibly physically writing their notes as dictated by them) to assisting someone in their workplace. For example from my own perspective if I am delivering training I may need a personal assistant to help me to set up a training room for example. There are no two personal assistants that do exactly the same job.

Getting a Personal Assistant
The way in which personal assistance in Independent living service is allocated to you is through the HSE. A criteria is set out to determine the need for Personal Assistance in independent living and there is a points system which a HSE key worker goes through with you and determines how many hours per week you require. A panel then receive that information and they decide how many hours you will get (usually less than the key workers recommendation). Although I previously stated in this blog that the HSE are in charge of the purse strings, sometimes there are personal budgets in place and there are also moves ongoing to make that more widespread.

This means the person with the disability managing their own service from recruitment, drawing up contracts to the financial aspects involved in employing suitable staff.

In finishing this blog I suppose a good way to sum things up is to finish with the words that sum up independent living perfectly “Nothing about us without us”.