Stepping in – who is the emergency back up Personal Assistant?

My friend arrived with her son half an hour late and looking slightly frazzled.  “Sorry I’m late – no PA and Lorraine’s bath took longer than I’d planned”.

“What happened to the PA today?” I asked knowing quite well what the answer would be.

“She cancelled yesterday and I couldn’t find anyone else at the last minute”.

I gave her that look of empathy and understanding with a slight eye raise – the sort of look that only someone with the same experience can give without getting a slap across the face for being patronising.

I felt a sickening feeling of having been  in this familiar position umpteen times myself.

Stepping in as the ‘Back Up Emergency PA’ seems to be on my job description.   I was that person on Monday.  I got the text through from about 830am.  Sorry Anna not well.   Going to look around and see if I can get child care sorted.  Won’t be there at 1030. Will let you know as soon as I can find anyone.   

is our PA co-ordinator (supervised, directed and advised by the Mere Mother) and so had the insight and knowledge to text other PA’s to see if they could step in rather than rely on the Mere Mother.  But no joy.  Too last minute and our team of PAs all have other jobs that they go to unless they are on the rota.  I am the Emergency Back Up  PA and also the Director of the whole show.    I am  like the Conductor of the orchestra but, with our family, nothing is in time and we are all out of tune.

Luckily Monday happened to be one of my working at home days.    That also means a day of hanging out the washing on the line/bringing the washing in 10 minutes later after it had started raining/putting another wash on/quick look on Facebook/cleaning up the breakfast things/looking at the muck on the carpet and resorting to getting the vacuum out/quick peep at emails. All this and more in the, getting- longer-by- the -minute job description.  Feels like lunch time already but it is only 915am.

I texted back slightly gritting my teeth I am at home today so will sort out things with N.  See you when you get here.

is our new South Korean volunteer PA and not really ready to be the emergency back up by any means.   I explained the situation to N.   You have got me as PA until arrives.   Is that ok?  Do you want me to bring your computer down and we can both work at the kitchen table?  Do you want to get on with the Power point for next week for the Kent parent forum and I can help if you need it?

signed to me a thumbs up which means “it’s fine”,   and then she gave me one of her I Don’t Need You looks.

I brought down the computer and set it up at the end of the table.  wanted to first get on with her essay set by  Bedford University on life in a local institution.  She is preparing for her next stage in life.   University.   She had researched a few days ago and found the Meanwood Park website. The website had lots of articles written by people who had survived life with no choice and no control.  She got stuck into the essay whilst I went back onto my own computer to see if any emails had popped up in the last 30 minutes.

We carried on like this till 130 when arrived having dropped off  “the sick child” at her mother’s house.   I secretly hoped she had not brought in any of “the sick child’s” germs with her.   I breathed a sigh of relief when she came into the kitchen and there was joy in my face. Feeling thankful she had made it I quickly forgot she was 3 hours late and was just grateful to see her.   was delighted too to have more attention than I had been giving her as I am only the Mere Mother who is desperately trying to earn a living in between being the voluntary Emergency Back up PA.  The Natural Support.  That is in my job description too.

How many times has this happened?   Many times – too many to count.   The worry is what happens when leaves home and who is going to be the emergency back up then?

Are Social Care really concerned with who is the emergency back up?  Has the social worker even thought about it before or even cared?  Like my friend said to me today, she is unable to hold a permanent job down, she had to give up her course to be a physio, she has a bad back from all the lifting – but what other choice does she have?    I need to have paid work as we have 6 hungry mouths to feed and University accommodation to fork out for.   I could not hold a 9-5 job down and at least being my own boss allows me the flexibility that I need.

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3 Responses

  1. tracey crutchfield says:

    I can relate to so much of this. R left school in July 2013 and funding was agreed ( 2 to 1 in the community 3 days a week, 2 days at a day service with 1-1 support) however my problem was finding PA’s that I knew would be like a second mum to R. It turned out I gave up my Nursery manager post after studying for 3 years to get my BA Honours Degree in early Years ( First Class) as well as looking after R. and reaching my goal.
    I tried advertising but this just scared me totally. How do we know who will be just right, even then if I employ someone it takes years to get to know R and it just has to be right. So R had weekend PA’s and over the coming months I employed more PA’s and worked this around their other jobs. So I have 1 PA who works 3 days a week for 5.5 hours, 1 PA who works 1 day a week for 5 hours, 2 PA’s who give me a day off and work 5 hours 2 to 1 with R, I do have 3 other PA’s who cover the respite side of things. I am the main PA ( unpaid) every day (except Thursdays). From July 2013 to November 2013 I was the sole PA.
    I vowed that I would be dedicated to R and ensure he would have a happy and fulfilling life, which I believe I am giving him. (see his facebook page The Life of Ryan).
    I do believe that I could not hold down a ‘proper’ job anymore because a) I am the main PA, I have to be as the Pa’s do not drive (other than the Thursday Pa and 1 respite cover PA, this would impact on the quality of experiences R had if I was not driver. 2) PA’ sickness – there is no back up for when a PA goes sick , it is ME.
    I do honestly believe that if parents are able to and want to , and their child / young person is thriving, and living a fulfilling life then why can’t parents be paid to look after their own child. It isn’t for all family s but certainly for my own it would make a huge difference. I have to be as you say emergency back up everyday. I know I would be an asset to other families in my situation and would be paid from the same system so why not for my own son, definitely in the short term, as I understand that long term I need to get him ready for the future!!

  2. diane says:

    Working is a rare and long forgotten aspiration for most parent caters. There is no support – unless you can find that Illusive PA who does not need a full time job ‘cos you couldn’t possibly hold one down!
    So where I wonder, will alll the Independent Parent Supporters come from??

    • katie clarke says:

      They can’t possibly be the same parents who are the ones already doing above and beyond the call of duty and running the parent forums?

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