Recruiting Personal Assistants

 

DAD are able to support you with recruiting personal assistants, there is information at the bottom of this page as to how we support you to do this.  We stress the importance that you check the suitability of who you choose to employ, a section of this page discusses recruitment good practice, DAD also provides a vetting service.

Where to Begin

The process of recruiting staff has the following elements:

  • Deciding how many staff you want and what hours they will need to work (drawing up a rota)
  • Producing information to send to applicants: a job description, personal specification and application form
  • Writing an advertisement and deciding where to place it
  • Shortlisting
  • Interviewing
  • Taking up references
  • Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS)
  • Making an offer of the job

When you begin to recruit your own staff, it is useful to have some general answers to the following questions:

  • How many staff are necessary to provide the assistance I need?
  • What hour will they work? (i.e. What sort of rota will I use to organise them?
  • What is possible and realistic within my Direct Payments budget?

At this stage all you need are some general ideas as there will be lots of opportunities to sort out the details later on. The most important thing to consider is what arrangements will best enable you to live your life in the way you choose. You may find it useful to refer to your self-assessment to gain some idea of the times when you need assistance and what pattern your assistance takes throughout a week or month.

Once you have established the times you will need a Personal Assistant, you will need to consider:

How many Personal Assistant you need in order to meet your care needs flexibly:

The number of hours each Personal Assistant will work.
The type of rota you will use; ’fixed’ or a ‘rotating’ rota.

Achieving the right balance depends on:

The amount of assistance you need.
Your lifestyle.

More staff working fewer hours

Advantages

  • More staff to cover holidays and sick leave
  • You may be able to save money by keeping employees’ wages under tax and National Insurance thresholds.

Disadvantages

  • More Personal Assistants to organise.
  • More complicated rotas
  • You may have to organise your activities around shift changes.

Less staff working more hours

Advantages

  • Less Personal Assistants, so less complicated rotas.
  • You do not always have to organise your life around so many shifts.

Disadvantages

  • Not so many people to fall back on if one of your Personal Assistants is off sick.
  • Long hours may affect the quality of your Personal Assistants work.

Recruitment Checklist

Before advertising

  • Job description
  • Application form
  • Interview venue
  • Correspondence address
  • Telephone number

Where advertising

  • Local shops
  • Job Centre
  • Newspapers
  • Other

1-3 Weeks

  • Closing date for applications

2-3 Days

  • Shortlisting date and sending letters for interviews

1 Week

  • Interview Date

1 - 2 Days

  • Letters offering job / rejecting applicants
  • Letters to check references
  • Form to carry out police check
  • Letter of appointment
  • Accepted
  • Starting date and signing contract

Job Descriptions

A job description is a written description of what you expect your Personal Assistants to do. It is an important document, which is essential in making sure that you communicate your wishes and needs clearly. When setting up and running your Direct Payments it is useful for the following reasons:

When you are recruiting Personal Assistants it can be sent out along with the application form to let applicants know exactly what the job involves.

When you employ someone it forms part of the employment contract and so provides you with a basis for measuring whether your Personal Assistant is carrying out his or her work effectively. It is also useful for sorting out any disagreements or misunderstandings between you and your employees.

The main areas which need to be included are:

  • The purpose of the job
  • Duties
  • Hours
  • Rates of pay

It should also include a general ‘catch all’ phrase to cover new and unforeseen tasks (e.g. ‘Enabling me to carry out any chosen activity, whether inside or outside my home, by carrying out any other requests which I may reasonably make’.)

This link will give you an idea of what to include when drawing up your own Job Description.

Preparing for recruitment and selection

Before we move on to the actual recruitment and selection process, there are a few things to consider. You are planning a new relationship - you being the employer to your employee(s). You are the employer as well as a supervisor, evaluator and service user.

For many people this will be their first experience of being an employer and remaining in control. It is therefore important to remember that it is not a parent/child relationship, a student / teacher, a friendship or a romantic affair! There might be ingredients of these relationships developing over time, but the basic fact remains YOU are the EMPLOYER.

It is very important that you are clear about this in your own mind from the start. It is also vital that you make sure your care arrangements fit around your needs and not the needs of your Personal Assistants.

Remember and respect the fact that your Personal Assistant has his or her own life. Treat your Personal Assistant with respect. Say thank you and mean it.

Be clear in your communication - your Personal Assistant is not a mind reader.

Giving clear and concise instructions can avoid conflicts and resentments.

Be aware that there are other kinds of services such as District Nurses, Chiropodists etc. that you may be entitled to. Your Personal Assistant need not be a total substitute for the trained and technical assistance you need.

Finally, keep your focus; always remember that your goal is to keep as much independence as possible.

Advertising, Interviewing and Screening

To begin advertising you need to do two things:

  • Decide what you want to say in your advertisement
  • Decide where you will advertise (e.g. Local shop, newspaper)

An advertisement does not have to say everything. It is simply a way of attracting the attention of the kind of people you would like to work for you.

You should include:

  • What the work is
  • How many hours work per week
  • How much you will pay
  • How to contact you

You might also want to include things you specifically require from your Personal Assistants (e.g. ‘non-smoker essential’ or ‘must have a clean driving licence’).

Whether you ask for someone with experience depends very much on what you want since, from the experience of other disabled people, employing people with experience can have disadvantages as well as advantages. Someone with experience may need less training in certain aspects of the job, but may have more fixed ideas about how things should be done and therefore less willing to listen to your directions. Not asking for experience can attract more applicants (including the people with experience) and they may be less set in their ways, however, they may require more training at the beginning.

Example Advertisement:

Disabled gentleman living in Darlington town centre seeks part-time staff for personal assistance tasks. Experience preferred, but not essential. Men only need apply. Local people preferred, as staff will be working for short periods on a rota. Some sleepover duties required. 
Wage £8.72 per hour, sleepover rate £45.00 per night.
If interested please write to: Mr B Jones c/o Direct Payments Support Service, Unit 1P, Enterprise House, Valley Street, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 1GY or telephone 01325 360 524.

Where to Advertise

Things to consider:

Local Shops and Supermarkets

Advantages

  • Usually free
  • Good way of recruiting staff that live locally.
  • Good for jobs less than 15 hours per week.

Disadvantages

  • Circulation confined to local area.
  • Not so good for full-time posts.

Local Organisations’ Newsletters

Advantages

  • Inexpensive or free
  • Good way of recruiting staff who live locally
  • Good way of targeting a specific group

Disadvantages

  • Circulation is mostly confined to membership, although can be wider if newsletter is displayed in Community Centres, libraries, etc.

Job Centres

Advantages

  • Free service
  • Good for full-time jobs
  • Can assist with interview rooms (check accessibility beforehand)

Disadvantages

  • Not good for part-time jobs
  • May be overwhelmed by a large number of applicants
  • May refer people not suitable for the job unless given clear information

Newspapers and Magazines

Advantages

  • Very wide circulation

Disadvantages

  • Can prove very expensive

You need to think about what correspondence address you will use as it is not advisable to put your own address and contact details on your advert. The direct payment support service can act as a correspondence address.

Shortlisting

By the closing date, a number of the people who initially contacted you as a result of your advertisement(s) will have returned completed application forms. The information on the application forms should allow you to decide whom you want to interview. You should not discriminate on the ground of any characteristic which are; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation unless specifically needed to fulfill actual job requirements. You find a full list of Protected characteristics here. For example, if you are a female employer you can advertise for a female member of staff to assist with your personal care or you could specify for an employee over 18 to carry out requirements such as personal care, manual handling or overnight shifts, as these are specific to carry out the job role under health and safety requirements.

It is a good idea to draw up your shortlist as soon as you can after the closing date for applications. People who are looking for work will usually have applied for several other jobs, so if you do not get back to them quickly they may have already found another job.

There is no single method of drawing up a shortlist which works for everyone. As you gain experience you will develop your own methods which work well for you. Many people find it helpful to ask another person to assist them as it can be useful to have someone to discuss your impressions with.

Sort out the applications which are obviously not suitable by checking:

  • the times when applicants are available to work
  • whether they meet any specific requirements you have requested (e.g. Experience, driving ability, etc.)

Then read through the other sections:

  • Look out for patronising attitudes and prejudices
  • Check employment history and reasons for leaving previous jobs
  • Check they have given two referees
  • Check ‘Declaration of Criminal Convictions’

After you have a rough idea of who you think is best, you may want to go through the positive applications again and make notes on specific questions you want to ask particular applicants at interview.

Contacting People

Once you have finalised your shortlist you need to contact the people who you want to interview to inform them:

  • That they have been selected for an interview
  • The venue, date and time of the interview
  • How they can contact you to confirm they will be attending the interview.

You may want to write to unsuccessful applicants as a courtesy to thank them for their application.

There are several standard format sample letters available from the Direct Payments Support Service.

Interviewing

Gaining information about the applicant

The interview gives you the opportunity to gain more information about an applicant than has been given on the application form.

To do this effectively it is a good idea to prepare a list of questions beforehand. Many people find that it is best to start with general questions that you want to ask every applicant. You can then add other questions that you want to ask each particular applicant. Please do not interview in your own home, the Support Service has accessible meeting room facilities available or consider a mutual venue.

Giving Information to the Applicant

Although the main purpose of the interview is to get as much information as possible about an applicant, it also gives you the chance to explain to them some of the details about the job.

Although applicants should know what the hours of work and rates of pay are from your advertisements and job descriptions, it is helpful to run through this again and to outline other terms and conditions.

Assistance with Interviewing

It is a good idea to ask someone to assist you with interviewing because:

  • It is good to have someone who you can discuss your impressions of applicants with.
  • You may need someone to assist you with taking notes.
  • It can also help you to remain in control of the situation.

During the Interview

The basic idea of an interview is to get your applicant to reveal as much information as possible. To do this, you want to make them feel relaxed and comfortable. Make sure that their first contact is a friendly one, that there is a comfortable chair for them and that you will not be disturbed by people coming in and out of the room, or the telephone ringing.

The best way to get information about people is to encourage them to talk freely about themselves. Unfortunately, most applicants will come along expecting to be asked a lot of questions. If, when you first meet them, you ‘break the ice’ by asking them about their journey or discussing the weather for a moment or two, this will help to put them at their ease. You can then go on to introduced yourself and anyone else on the interview panel and explain what kind of interview it is going to be and the order of events. For example, ‘first I will tell you a little about the job and then I will ask you to tell me about yourself.’

Interview Questions

Preparing a list of questions beforehand is essential to make sure that you get the information you want.

General Questions

These are questions you want to ask every applicant, they might include:

  • Why do you want the job as my Personal Assistant?
  • Describe briefly what you understand the job as my personal assistant to involve.
  • The job title is Personal Assistant. Can you describe what the difference is between Personal Assistant and Carer?
  • Could you tell me why you would be good at this job?
  • Do you have any previous experience that you feel would prove useful?
  • It is important that my Personal Assistants respect my privacy and confidentiality. What does this mean to you in practical terms?
  • How flexible can you be? Are there any times you would be unable to work?
  • Is there anything you think you might find difficult about the job?

There are only example questions and you can make up your own. The important thing to remember is that during the interview you want to encourage the applicant to keep talking about themselves. Don’t ask too many ‘closed’ questions which will encourage ‘Yes / No’ answers. For example, if you asked someone ‘Are you a good cook?’ they would be likely to reply yes or no. Saying ‘could you tell me about the sort of things you like to cook?’ could be much more fruitful.

Don’t be afraid of allowing short periods of silence or pauses. This gives your applicant time to think and may also force them to describe themselves.

Specific Questions

As well as general questions you may also want to ask questions that are specific to each applicant and deal with issues raised by their application form. For example, if an applicant lives a long way from you and does not drive, it may be a good idea to ask how they plan to get to work. This gives you the opportunity of seeing if they have thought through all that the job involves and how serious they are about it. Similarly, you might want to establish just when an applicant is available for work if they have neglected to answer that question on the application form. Make a list of specific questions you want to ask.

General Tips

Try and give as positive an impression as you can at all time. Your facial expression can do a great deal to encourage or discourage the applicant.

If you acknowledge what they say with a smile or a nod of the head they are more likely to go on talking than if you appear bored or not interested. Remember, you can decide what you think about their answers after the interview.
Using an applicant’s name throughout the interview is a good technique. If you address them simply as ‘you’ all the time, they may well feel that you have not got their name and this may discourage them from opening up.

Please do not interview in your own home, the Support Service has accessible meeting room facilities available.

Taking Notes

If you are interviewing several people in one day, it can be difficult to remember who is who. It is therefore useful to have someone who can take notes for you, Taking notes yourself can be difficult and it distracts you from communicating with the applicant. Some people find it helpful writing notes immediately after each interview. If you use the Support Service, you can ask us to do this if needs be.

Finishing the Interview

Consult your list of questions to make sure that you have all the information you want before you let the applicant go. Ask the applicant if there are any questions they would like to ask you. Once you have answered their questions, thank the person for their time and explain when they are likely to hear from you. Be as honest as possible and explain if you have more people to interview.

Making a Decision

Interviews only give you a short time to gain more information about applicants. Trusting your instincts can be very important, as you have to know if you will get on with them. Having another person there and consulting notes may help to clarify some of your impressions and feelings.

Remember that the Direct Payments Support Service can assist you to prepare for the interviews and can also be present during the interview to assist you.

You must ensure that you only employ people who are legally entitled to work in the UK. If you intend to employ anyone who is not a European Union or British Citizen, they will need to provide UK Home Office proof of entitlement to work in the UK,

References

Checking the references an applicant has given is very important because it is the only way you can be sure the information they have provided is correct. It is also valuable to have the opinion of another person who already knows the applicant and their suitability for the job.

Contacting the Referees

Each applicant should have given the names and addresses of two people who are prepared to give them a reference on their application form. They should also have stated whether you could take up references before the interview.
Taking up references before the interview is not normally a good idea because of the effort and time involved in getting references for everyone.

Requesting a Reference in Writing

Asking for a written reference is the best way of getting the most information. You can ask specific questions and also send a copy of the Job Description so you are sure that the referee (the person who is giving the reference) understands what the job involves. You could use a letter or set out a reference form for this purpose. It is a good idea to enclose a stamped addressed envelope when requesting a reference.
Example reference forms and letters are available from the Direct Payments Support Service.

Requesting a Reference by Telephone

Contacting the referees by telephone can be a quicker way of checking someone is suitable. Referees may also be prepared to say things over the phone they would not write down. However, this may not allow the referee to consider what the job involves.

You can request a reference by letter and then follow it up with a telephone call, thereby getting the best of both worlds!

Recruiting a personal assistant - how DAD can support you

DAD Direct Payment Support Service has a range of options to support you to recruit and employ your own personal assistants. As a support service we can support you in the following ways:

Advertising:

Your advert can be placed into the Direct Payment employer section of DAD’s website which will include your advert with a reference number so applicants can indicate if they want to apply for your job.

Your advert can be placed in a vacancy flier which we produce and send to people interested in personal assistance work.

We can also support you to put your advert in the job centre or if you choose to, in a local paper (there is a cost for advertising in the local press).

Do not put your own address and contact details on your advert. We can act as a correspondence address.

Please contact the Direct Payments Support Service on 01325 360524  option 2, for details of how you go about accessing the personal assistant register.

Self-Employed Personal Assistants

Self-employed personal assistants are PA’s who you can contract with to work for you, but are considered their own employer and are treated as a business owner. This means that they themselves are responsible for dealing with their own tax, National Insurance contributions, insurance etc. It is recommended that you seek advice before considering taking on someone claiming to be self-employed, as you will need to check they have the relevant checks in place.

If you use a self-employed PA you are essentially purchasing services much like you would if you were using an agency. The PA would set their own range of services that they offer and invoice you for them.

You need to proceed with caution when using a self-employed personal assistant. You should obtain proof that they are self employed by asking for their unique tax reference number and by using the Employment Indicator Status tool on the HM Revenue and Customs website.

Vetting Service

We strongly advise that you always take out a Disclosure and Barring check (DBS) and references, even if you know the person you are employing. This is for your safety and peace of mind but also to protect other direct payment users, as we do not want unsuitable applicants to think they will not have checks carried out. We provide a vetting service to support you to carry out all these checks; you can use your direct payment to pay for this. The cost includes:

  • An enhanced disclosure and barring check (DBS)
  • references and verification of references
  • pre-screen interview
  • pre-employment check

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