Personal Assistants Require Support and Recognition – But They’re Not Heroes or Saints

This blog post was written by Robert Droy and is his personal point of view

I get used to reading articles that are patronising to Disabled People. Unfortunately it’s just a price we have to pay if we want to read a newspaper or surf the internet. However an article in today’s Guardian was different in that I found it rather patronising about personal assistants or as the Guardian calls them ‘care workers’ .

Let me be clear this is in no way meant to be a personal attack on the author. Many of the points the author made regarding staff receiving adequate wages and the commitment that many staff put into their work, I wholly agree with. However phrases like ‘noble’ and ‘incredible’ and ‘devoted her whole life to….’ were quite jarring to me. It sounds like the member of staff was very good at her job and was committed, but she was just a member of staff. She wasn’t a hero or a saint. She shouldn’t have devoted her life to the job. My Personal Assistants are great at their job but they haven’t devoted their life to supporting me and neither should they. They should however have their work recognised and rewarded appropriately.

This brings me on to another quote from the article – ‘Caring is often a thankless task’ . Well, so is mending the photocopier, so is emptying other people’s bins, so is dealing with a drunk person after closing time. Many of us have jobs that are thankless but should we expect gratitude just for doing our job? I feel this is where the author got confused between caring and care work. People who are paid to support Disabled People (personal assistants / ‘care workers’ ) are distinct from carers who are normally friends or family who are providing unpaid care to the Disabled Person. Both these groups are vital in the modern social care system but they have different needs and support to undertake their responsibilities.

And after all this, we must never forget the wishes and preferences of the Disabled Person. How do they feel if their staff are held up as heroes and saints? Many Disabled People, including myself, may feel the staff are lucky to have a job at all. And that’s not because we’re ungrateful or don’t feel hard working staff should be recognised. It’s because we hear from our staff, how they enjoy their job, how they do feel recognised, or at the very least, how it’s better than working in McDonald’s.

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