Investment in a real Personal Assistance Service (PAS) to liberate disabled people to live independent lives also needs to ensure staff are remunerated accordingly
Today (Monday 15th October) ILMI recognises the crucial role that Personal Assistants (PA) have played and continue to play to allow thousands of disabled people to live independently and that this crucial role must be resourced accordingly.
“Since disabled people first introduced the Personal Assistance Service (PAS) in Ireland 30 years ago, it has been fundamental to so many of us to live the lives of our choosing. ILMI have been continually calling for year on year investment in the service that disabled people value the most to give us the supports we want to live to realise our lives as part of the community” said Des Kenny, ILMI Chairperson.
“With ILMI’s PAS NOW campaign we have seen year on year budgetary increase in the allocation to PAS, but progress has been slow and one of the major stumbling blocks to building a real PAS system in Ireland is the low rate of pay for Personal Assistants” added Mr Kenny.
“As ILMI peer mentor, I have spoken to hundreds of disabled people leading their PA service and almost every single one of us are having difficulties in retaining and recruiting PAs. The reason for this is that PAs are not paid enough and therefore are leaving their roles as PAs” said Shelly Gaynor, ILMI peer mentor.
“We also know from talking to PAs, that many of the larger disability services receive in the region of €30 per hour for each PA, yet PA wages have not increased for years. Our PAs are struggling to make ends meet under a cost-of-living crisis. Of course, no disabled person wants to be without their service, but we know that PAs have been forced into taking strike action as their current pay is not sustainable” added Ms Gaynor.
“Fundamental to disabled people controlling their Personal Assistance Service is training and developing a relationship with their PAs which takes time and needs consistency of staff, ideally on a long-term basis. We have a situation where many disabled people are receiving minimal hours, less than seven hours a week, which really isn’t a Personal Assistance Service as it doesn’t allow us to do anything we want in terms of living. That has a huge impact on our lives. It also means that you have PAs who cannot get enough hours to survive let alone see the role of a PA as a potential long-term career. It also means that many people who want to become a PA are forced to travel multiple times in one day to a changing “rota” of disabled people, which we know impacts on the PAs as well as they don’t get paid for travel but also in that they know they are unable to do the jobs they should be doing and building that relationship” added Ms Gaynor.
“ILMI’s values are human rights, collective empowerment and social justice for disabled people, but those values also apply to the type of society we want to collectively create and social justice for disabled people cannot be achieved without social justice for Personal Assistants. It is one of the most cost-effective support systems to promote the inclusion of disabled people in Ireland, yet it amounts to less than 3% of the €2.3 billion spent on disability services annually.
If Ireland is genuinely committed to realising the UNCRPD and building an effective, sustainable Personal Assistance Service then we have to ensure that as a career it is attractive to workers and rewards them accordingly. We stand in solidarity with staff in their struggle for appropriate remuneration rates that we feel will allow us as disabled people to have the PA supports to participate in society as equals” added Mr Kenny.