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What are the long-term implications of the pandemic on social care personal assistants (PAs)?

2022 Conference Presentation

8 September 2022

What are the long-term implications of the pandemic on social care personal assistants (PAs)?

Caroline Norrie , King's College London , United Kingdom

Olivia Luijnenburg, Jo Moriarty, Kritika Samsi, Jill Manthorpe
NIHR, PRU in Health and Social Care Workforce Research, (HSCWRU) KCL


Background: Personal Assistants (PAs) are an important segment of the social care workforce in England. PAs are paid by an individual, using Local Authority (LA) Direct Payments, or their own resources. Uniquely, PAs are the only group of care workers who are unregulated; they are also unrepresented by any professional association.

We undertook a large-scale, qualitative study in 2016-17 involving interviews with 100 PAs about their work, pay and conditions, training, and multi-agency working. We re-interviewed many of this group twice more (in 2020 and 2022) to explore how the pandemic is affecting their work. This presentation reports findings from the third set of interviews.

Objectives: To explore:

what has happened in PAs' work lives during the pandemic?

what has changed, if anything, in PAs' working relationship with their employer(s), their employer's family (where relevant) and community-based professionals, and in terms of their employment conditions?

how do PAs envisage their future working lives in a "post-pandemic world “ and whether / how the pandemic has shaped work plans?

Methods: A sample of 40 interviewees was recruited, drawn from the original study. We included any who had stopped working as PAs during the pandemic. We interviewed them online or by phone about their experiences, relationships with employers/families, pay and conditions, training, and plans. Analysis was undertaken of the transcribed interviews using NVivo to manage the data following a coding framework based on the interview schedule combined with emerging free codes.

Findings: Emerging findings will be discussed including changes since the pandemic in: working for people with care and support needs, infection control, responsibilities and tasks, and relationships. Furthermore, the emerging findings demonstrate how/whether PAs felt they were supported during different stages of the pandemic and what they feel the future holds for the PA workforce.

Conclusions: Initial conclusions point to the importance of the PA workforce not being forgotten by national and local government in emergency planning and by social workers in supporting contingency planning by and for individuals.