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Essex County Council - Provider Hub
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Market Context

Personal Assistants are directly employed or contracted by the individuals and families they support. ECC are therefore not in direct contact with all PAs and do not have oversight of the total number of Personal Assistants working in Essex. Through the COVID Vaccination Programme, ECC reached over 3000 PAs working with adults and children. However this may be an overestimation and include unpaid carers and self-employed carers.  Further analysis into the number of Personal Assistants in Essex suggested there were circa 1800-2000 PAs employed by DP recipients in Essex Last Month Purple processed payroll for 1250 PAs

Following research with people with lived experience, we recognised that PAs sometimes feel isolated and are not consistently accessing the training they feel they need or employer supervision to ensure they are fully confident and able to deliver high quality support.

Individuals also reported challenges with recruiting suitable PAs given the pressures in the labour market.  Many told us that they subsequently rely on family and friends to fulfil the role.

The Direct Payment Support Service provider, funded by ECC, is developing a matching tool to support people to find PAs.

PAs can support people according to their individual needs and aspirations. Support may vary from personal care, respite, support to access the local community and pathways to employment and meaningful occupations. They can also support people across all cohorts and ages.

Whilst we do not hold sufficient data on PAs (as they are not commissioned directly by ECC) to know the exact status of the market, Anecdotal evidence form DP recipients suggests the number of PAs in the market is decreasing as people are leaving the sector following the pressure of the pandemic and the increase in salaries on offer in other sectors especially retail and logistics.  In order that DP recipients can enjoy the benefits of employing a PA to provide support there is a need to stop this decline and significantly increase the numbers.

There seems to be a particular difficulty for families who manage a DP on behalf of children to recruit as the role is required less in term time and more at weekends and during holiday times.

A new Direct Payment Support Service will be in place that will provide more support to recruit and retain PAs and will also provide support direct to PAs to encourage them to stay in the market.

Essex ASC Market (ECC Funded/Using Direct Payments)  
Spend £29 Million
No. Adults 1,700
Essex ASC Market - Sourcing  
Average rate per hour £15.08*
Placements per month 45

The information shown in the table(s) above is correct as of 31st March 2024.

*£15.08 is a current guide price, a true average is being established that takes the whole market into account

ECC has been working with individuals in receipt of Direct Payments to develop options to grow the PA and carer market,  children, families and adults are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit suitable PAs.

A new and enhanced Direct Payment Support Service (which will launch in July 2023) will include assistance around the recruitment and retention of PAs, assistance on training, supervising and managing PAs. ECC are already working with the existing Direct Payment Support Service to look at how we can make it easier for individuals to recruit and manage PAs and as a result we have seen the PA register grow by over 100 PAs.

No impact currently highlighted.

Current market risks:

  • Individuals have told us that it often takes them two or three attempts to recruit suitable PAs. In the meantime this can mean that individuals are not supported in the ways that they need and want.
  • If appropriate employment contracts are not in place or employment practices are not adhered to employment issues and disputes can arise.
  • Some PAs are self-employed and so it is important that individuals managing personal budgets know how to enter into contracts with those who are self-employed and ensure they meet the self-employment test as set out by HMRC.
  • The Direct Payment Support Service are available to provide reviews of employment contracts, insurance policies and other related matters. 

Our current areas of focus are:

Essex County Council are undertaking a number of actions to ensure there is a thriving market place for PAs.  More PAs need to be encouraged into the market and existing PAs will be encouraged to stay in the market.  The work to deliver this includes:

  • To continue to listen and gain insight into the experiences of individuals currently managing personal budgets, their families, PAs and support providers and for this to inform our approaches.
  • Working with the Direct Payment Support Service (DPSS) provider to encourage prospective PAs onto the PA register. This is done through constant advertising campaigns, attending job fairs, universities and other work to promote the role across the county.  This work is also done in collaboration with ECC’s internal care workforce development team to promote working in the care sector.
  • Providing support to employers – The best way to recruit and retain PAs is to ensure DP recipients are the best employers that they can be. The new Direct Payment Support Service will provide practical support to ensure that employers have policies and strategies in place to be great employers and are given support when it is required.
  • Support to PAs – The new Direct Payment Support Service will offer support to Personal Assistants to encourage them to stay in the market.  Feedback form PAs was that it can be an isolating role.  Therefore a Peer support group will be developed so PAs can meet others and develop networks to help them feel better supported in their role.  A PA Hub/Community Centre is being developed in Essex this will provide advice, training, wellbeing support and networking opportunities for PAs
  • PA salaries - Whilst PA salaries are set by their employers this is often limited by the level of personal budget available to DP recipients.  ECC are developing a strategy to identify and implement a fair cost of care model for people employing PAs.  This will ensure the guidance rates for generating a personal budget for a person who employs PAs is set at a level which allows salaries to be set at a level  that recognises the responsibilities of a PA. This will encourage new entrants into this section of the labour market and reduce the number of people who are leaving as a result of higher salaries in other areas of the economy.
  • To explore the use of digital and technology solutions that may support individuals and PAs in their roles.
Last updated: 31/03/2024