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What is a Personal Assistant?

The Scottish Government defines a Personal Assistant as:

An employee of a person needing care or support. If the person is under 16 or has an appointed decision maker, the parent or guardian/person with power of attorney is the employer.

The role of a personal assistant can be varied, challenging and very rewarding.

The objective of the personal assistant is to provide practical support and assistance to their employer (the person with a disability, impairment or long-term condition) to live a full and active life at home and as part of their community.

The role of the personal assistant is varied and may include elements of both care and support.

A full and active life as part of their community

In this video, you can see one example of a Personal Assistant supporting her employer to take part in the Bressay Up Hella Aa festival.


If you would like to read on about the role of a Personal Assistant, we cover most questions here..

Who is the employer?

The employer is an individual who has been assessed by Shetland Islands Council's social work team as requiring support and they have decided to manage their own care through Self Directed Support.

What can be expected from the role of a Personal Assistant?

The role of Personal Assistant is unique in that every supported person will require personalised care through different levels and types of support.

No two roles will be the same as each job will be specific to the needs of the supported person.

The objective is to make sure the supported person remains healthy and happy and with this, comes a sense of real personal achievement and satisfaction for the Personal Assistant.

Is there a contract?


The direct payments employer will present their Personal Assistants with terms of employment through a contract which will detail employment rights, responsibilities and duties. This wil be read and agreed by the Personal Assistant, if they are happy they will sign this. The employer and Personal Assistant should keep a copy each.

What rights do Personal Assistants have?

Personal Assistants have the same statutory (legal) rights as any other employee in the UK, this includes the right to:

  • Statutory holiday pay
  • Statutory maternity.paternity/adoption leave pay (if applicable)
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory redundancy pay
  • A statement of main terms or contract of employment
  • Access your employer's pension scheme
  • Not be unfairly dismissed
  • Work in a safe environment

Within various aspects of employment and related laws, the employer has the flexibility to offer additional benefits such as enhanced rates of pay for overtime and public holidays and funding for job specific training.

Hourly rate of pay

Most Personal Assistant employers will pay their employees an hourly rate of pay rather than an annual salary.

The hourly rate of pay will be determined by the employer based on the level of funding provided by the funding body and amount of support they require.

The Personal Assistant's hourly rate of pay will be contained in the statement of main terms along with any enhancements such as rate of renumeration for using their own vehicle (if this is required), any enhanced rate of pay for overtime worked or time worked on recognised public holidays.

What skills are needed to be a Personal Assistant?

What should be remembered is that the goal is to help the supported person achieve the objectives and aspirations set out in their support plan and the role of a Personal Assistant is to enable that.

You do not need to have previous experience in a care setting. The role of a Personal Assistant is more reliant on personality, hobbies and talents than professional training.

What training must be completed, and from where?

The employer will be responsible for arranging training. A Personal Assistant can, however, do other courses over and above this if they wish, at their own cost.

Is there support for Personal Assistants?

There are a few places that can offer support for Personal Assistants.

The Personal Assistants Network Scotland can provide independent support to Personal Assistants by phone, email and online as well as arranging face to face events to meet local demand. They have a website where you can access advice, knowledge and support if/when needed. The PA Network aims to build a peer support network of PAs where you can meet and get to know other personal assistants in your area and nationally.

Personal Assistant Network Scotland Facebook page:

Personal Assistant Network- Shetland Isles, Facebook page: Personal Assistants Network - The Shetland Isles

This is for personal assistants that are looking for work, share stories, ask for help, share news and any local events happening

Where can job vacancies be found?

Currently, there is no single place for potential personal assistant employers to advertise their vacancies but you can ask any locally based support organisation if they are aware of people seeking personal assistants as they often support the personal assistant employers and may have knowledge of local vacancies.

Personal Assistant Network- Shetland Isles, Facebook page is a good place to start you could also contact Adult Social Work to register your interest

Many personal assistant employers advertise their vacancies in the local job centre, local newspapers and local shops.

Often personal assistants find work with people they already know or through mutual friends. While you and the employer may have known each other for a long period of time, you should be aware that your employer should and is entitled to ask you to join the PVG Scheme and provide references from previous employers.

You should not be offended by such requests. This is normal recruitment and selection practice and protects both you and your employer.

If you are considering being employed by a friend or family member, you should consider how your role as an employee may impact on your relationship as a friend/relative.

There are guidelines on when it is appropriate to employ a family member and this can only be done where the local authority agrees to the arrangement.

This may be the role for me

We know from other PAs that this can be a very rewarding and fulfilling job and can often lead to other careers in social care or provide the kind of flexible, enjoyable role that fits in with your personal life.

Here are some quotes from other PAs about the work they do:

"This job is very rewarding to know that you are making a difference between someone being in care or being able to live a reasonable independent life in their own home is immeasurable"

"I enjoy my role as a Personal Assistant and find the work challenging as well as rewarding"

"It is a very good experience indeed, my skills from working in a care home have helped me but what I like best is that as a Personal Assistant, I focus completely on one individual, supporting them to remain at home where they feel relaxed and have their faily around them"

"Personal Assistant work for me has been the best move I've made yet. The fact that it is tailored to suit the families involved gives total job satisfaction"

"I came into PA work by chance, but I found it so rewarding that I changed my entire career and now can't imagine doing anything else. The relationship you build with your person becomes lifelong and wonderful"