West Midlands Personal Assistant Project

“Supporting the delivery of the Putting People First agenda by building the capacity and quality of directly employed Personal Assistants (PAs) in the West Midlands”.

Concern had been voiced by the region’s Direct Payment Support staff that a significant increase in the take-up of personal budgets would lead to an increase in demand for all types of personal support, including the direct employment of PAs. They knew from experience that the recruitment of PAs was already an issue – so Impact Change Solutions set out to understand the issues affecting direct employment and to influence local authorities in the West Midlands over their offering to service users and Personal Assistants, so that the market conditions for direct employment might improve over time.

We engaged extensively with people who employ PAs, with Carers and with existing and potential PAs as well as with a variety of organisations and agencies involved in supporting those in receipt of direct payments, so that the findings provided a broad and balanced view that reflected the experience of those most affected.

The project concluded that the barriers to direct employment can be mitigated by Informing service users, carers and PAs about direct employment and the associated issues; by Developing the market for direct employment through a combination of market-shaping, personal development, professional standards and peer support; and by Empowering service users, carers and PAs to access and take control of their own solutions, through the provision of an Online Marketplace and PA Register.

A summary report can be found here and the main deliverables are available as follows:

Minimising Risk, Facilitating Choice – provides clarification of the role of the Local Authority and the responsibilities of being an employer along with a summary of the main liability issues, providing a firm evidence base to help councils and employers act within the law. This valuable resource continues to be referenced by councils in the region, for example when providing clarification over the responsibility for handling complaints about providers entering into direct contracts with clients with private or direct payment funding.

Analysing the Barriers – presents an analysis of the market for direct employment in the West Midlands and identifies the forces driving direct employment and those “barriers” serving to constrain growth. The analysis provides much of the evidence that was used to justify the prioritisation of ‘market shaping’ activities within the region.

Online Marketplace and Personal Assistant Register Specification – a statement of functional and technical requirements that has enabled councils to intelligently commission or develop an appropriate IT solution (for example, the PA Register within Worcestershire County Council’s Carewise system).

Direct Employment Toolkit – a practical guide aimed at improving the local authority offering to those choosing to directly employ staff as PAs, which has been incorporated into council websites across the West Midlands.

Strategic Justification and Business Case – analysis of the social and economic benefits associated with implementing the recommendations of the West Midlands PA Project. The analysis identifies potential net efficiency savings of more than £700k over 5 years for a ‘typical’ council.

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