Social care personal assistants can be a highly effective way of delivering truly personalised services to disabled and older people because they are directly employed by the person requiring care and support, or their family. Though the close working relationships that are created within this direct employment relationship can be mutually satisfying for both employer and employee, aspects of the employment relationship can also be highly problematic.

These problems may have created specific risks to both parties during the pandemic, which are not fully understood. This study will provide descriptive evidence of the pandemic's impact and what lessons can be learned.

Old woman with personal assistant

The overall aims of the project are:

1. To find out what has happened to personal assistants (Pas) following the Covid-19 pandemic

2.  Find out what has changed, if anything, in their relationship with their employer(s) and their employment conditions

3.  Explore how PAs envisage their future working lives in a ‘post-pandemic’ world – and whether /how the pandemic has shaped job and career plans.

How will the study be carried out?

The study will utilise a prospective qualitative design, using semi structured interviews, by video-conferencing software or telephone, with a sample of 55 social care PAs identified in different parts of England, including London.

Potential benefits of the project

Social care PAs are unregulated and largely overlooked. They were excluded from guidance offered to health and care staff at the start of the pandemic, their status as key workers was not made clear for several months and they did not have ready access to  personal protective equipment (PPE) because they were in an unrecognised role. This study will provide important information about the impact of the pandemic on PA employment relationships and practices.

How service users, carers and the public involved in the study

All study documents including the proposal, interview guide, information sheet and consent form have been peer reviewed by the Health and Social Care Workforce Research Unit Standing Advisory Group of service users and carers.

The study is funded by Department of Health and Social Care. It was adopted by ARC South London in September 2021.