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Employing Personal Assistants during the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons for social care practice

What happened to people employing their own care workers or Personal Assistants (PAs) during the Coronavirus pandemic? How did they manage? Did they stop this support; adjust to new ways of care and support; and have they restarted their PA or done something different? Did their local council contact them with advice, or was other information available? This study, focusing on the experiences of people employing their own care workers, will help answer these questions. They are important for social care practice now and in the future in case of new outbreaks of the virus or for another similar emergency.

This new study will ask people who employ PAs about their experiences during the time of lockdown and beyond. We want to talk with both people who pay for a PA by Direct Payments from the council and people who pay their PA independently. We will interview 70 individual employers (care users) and family members (if they are the employer because their relative cannot manage these arrangements), to learn from their experiences. We will also interview people from 5-6 brokerage or support agencies that help people find possible PAs, or support PA employers.

Project duration

1st November 2020 – 31st March 2022

Project funder

NIHR School for Social Care Research



We will interview people from different backgrounds and circumstances. For example, some may have ‘shielded’ themselves or have particular risk factors (we now know these include ethnicity). We will recruit people from different parts of England and who need different types of support, for example some people need help with eating; other people want their PA to help with getting out and about.

The interviews will be done by phone or by video. We will examine and compare people’s experiences so that we can learn from them and use them to develop guidance for local councils, voluntary sector organisations, social care workers and for other people in this situation. We plan to talk about the main pandemic period and beyond (if the virus declines) and to produce reports that are useful. We will make this information easy to get hold of by producing short reports and webinars. We will also publish our findings in journals, at conferences and through our websites and social media. We will do a short YouTube presentation for PA employers and families. We will work with organisations providing advice and guidance to make sure our research reaches the right people.

Study Advisory Group

Our Study Advisory Group will draw on its members’ insights and experiences, helping our findings to have influence. This Group will be funded to help us and will involve people who employ their own care workers. They will help us design interview guides, understand what people tell us, and make sure our findings are easy to understand.

Project status: Ongoing

Principal investigators

Samsi 160

Kritika Samsi

Research Fellow


  • Socialcare
  • personalassistants
  • COVID-19