A new organisation will provide the first national voice for disabled people who employ personal assistants (PAs).
The Association of Disabled Employers (ADE) has been set up by Anne Pridmore, who has campaigned for nearly 20 years on independent living and personalisation (where users have choice and control over their own care services).
Pridmore, who has chaired the United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council, said there was an urgent need for a UK-wide organisation to provide support for disabled people who employ their own PAs.
ADE will share advice and information with its members and provide a forum for them to share ideas, as well as campaigning for disabled people to have more control over issues around PAs, personalisation and independent living.
It will provide support for any disabled person who employs a PA, support worker or carer, whether through direct payments, access to work or private funding.
Pridmore said: “Through my 18 years’ experience, I know that we need a strong voice for disabled people who employ their own staff. Too many decisions are being made on our behalf.”
In the early 1990s, Pridmore was one of the disabled activists who brought traffic to a standstill outside the House of Commons during a protest that called for disabled people to have the right to direct payments.
She also fought to become the first person in Leicestershire to receive indirect payments (a precursor of direct payments) to pay for her care services. Her battle helped 35 other disabled people in the county receive payments and obtain control over their lives.
And with personalisation now near the top of the government’s social care agenda, she says it is vital that disabled people’s voices are heard at a national level.
“I realised that if we were not careful, the control we had fought so hard for would be lost,” she said.
“I want to achieve a national voice for disabled people who employ their own staff so they will not feel isolated and they will feel they are being listened to, because at the moment I don’t think they are.”
She said the new association could eventually provide its own training, and award certificates recognising the wider issues around being an employer of PAs, such as knowledge of the social model of disability, confidentiality, and the history and importance of independent living.
Reaction to her plans across the disability movement has been positive, but Pridmore is keen for more disabled employers to sign up to the association to give it further weight and credibility.
She said: “There is so much we could do if we could get this going.”