“I have been using care support from an early age due to having severe arthritis since I was a baby,” Outset Cornwall client Amy Rice said, “In my early twenties I started employing a personal assistant (PA), through the Government’s personal budget system, which provides money directly to the person needing care so that they can organise their own help.”
Amy added that being able to take charge of employing her own PA is “brilliant” but that becoming an employer caused her worry and stress; and she wasn’t alone.
“I had been working in the health and social sector for the Local Involvement Network as its research and involvement officer. I helped people in Cornwall influence the health and social care services they received and ran focus groups to enable people to work with the organisations that plan and run care services to make positive changes. It was while I was there that I learned what people thought of the services on offer and what further support they felt they needed. Many people were worried and frightened about all that employing a PA involved even though they wanted to be able to do so to ensure they had maximum control over their care.”
It was the desire to make things easier for others in a similar position to her that inspired Amy to create her fledgling company, the PA Agency.
She said: “My business aims to assist anyone who wants to employ a PA, whether they receive money from the Government via Cornwall Council or pay out of their own funds. But to make sure my business idea became a reality I knew needed to expand my knowledge and confidence. That’s where Outset Cornwall came in.”
Amy’s self-belief soon began to grow in relation to business with peer support in the group sessions and through working with the intensive start-up programme’s advisors.
“By joining Outset Cornwall I was also able to challenge my thoughts and to make sure that I was planning correctly and not overlooking crucial parts of running a business. I do like to plan and be prepared but I am quickly learning it is not always possible when running your own business.”
Amy has now put all that she has taken from the Outset Cornwall course to good use by taking the worry and anxiety about employing someone to care away with The PA Agency.
Its support will include: recruiting a PA; matching a registered PA from the Agency’s bank; advertising and recruiting a PA if one not found through bank system; and covering human resources and legal aspects of employing a personal assistant.
Along with this provision Amy’s new company will also take care of writing contracts and job descriptions; running Criminal Record Bureau checks; getting the right insurance in place; payroll; holiday leave entitlements; and PA’s induction and reviews.
Amy added: “We will also answer any questions about employment law as well as so much more such as managing your ‘personal budgets’ bank account and accessing training for the carer and their PA. It’s all about making things easier. I like to make sure that everyone is treated equally and believe that everyone has something to offer.”
She found that the one-to-one support provided by Outset Cornwall was invaluable, saying that “Without this support I would not have even started to believe that I could be running my own business full time and exploring my full potential”.
Amy now hopes to attend some post start up training sessions, such as the ones she went along too all about social media, which she found “superb” and with her year’s complimentary membership to Cornwall Enterprising Women, subsidised through Outset Cornwall, she has also gained excellent PR coverage in the local media thanks to its women’s enterprise co-ordinator, Josie Purcell, a former local journalist.
By employing a ‘personal assistant’ people will have maximum control of their care, be able to build a one-to-one relationship with their PA and use their PA to enable them to live the life they want.
As a very new start up Amy is now looking forward to having her first customer and building excellent relationships with Cornwall Council to enable it to refer people to her.
Looking to the future Amy smiled: “I want to be known for offering a superb support service that helps people to retain and expand their independence and I would like my business to develop into a family business that can employ me full time.”
When not looking after business Amy loves to be out and about exploring Cornwall and making the most of what it has to offer along with cooking and spending time with her friends and family.