What is a Personal Care Assistant?

Personal care assistant

A Personal Assistant (PA) is someone that supports another person with their everyday social care needs.

Because ‘Personal Assistant’ is often used in the UK to refer to an admin type role, PAs, in the context of care, are also sometimes called ‘Personal Care Assistants’.

What is the difference between a Personal Assistant (PA) and a Carer?

Number of ‘clients’

Personal Assistants tend to care for just one or two people, although that doesn’t have to be the case. They might care for family members, neighbours or friends. However, there is nothing to say that Personal Assistants cannot offer their services to more people.

Carers by contrast will often work through an agency as an employee and might care for quite a number of people.


Some Personal Assistants are not paid for their work, particularly if they are helping family members. However, this is not always the case – many Personal Assistants are paid for either through the ‘Personal Budget’ of the person being cared for, or from the person’s own funds.

Carers by contrast are either paid through the Personal Budget, the Carer’s Allowance or through an agency as an employee.


Carers have to complete mandatory training. This includes completion of the Care Certificate (15 standards) and other training relevant to their role. They must keep their knowledge up to date which means completing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) each year.

Whether or not a Personal Assistant needs to complete mandatory training is more of a grey area. Technically since their role is akin to that of a carer, it is arguable that they ought to at least be familiar with the topics covered by the Care Certificate.

The role of the Personal Assistant

Personal Assistants carry out a very wide range of tasks. These might include the type of activities that a carer would do, such as helping with washing and dressing or cleaning.

Personal Assistants may also do other tasks such as shopping, or helping the person to attend a day centre.

A Personal Care Assistant may:

  • Help with washing and dressing
  • Help with changing pads or dressings
  • Do the laundry
  • Help the person visit the toilet
  • Help with household chores such as cleaning or maintenance
  • Help with gardening
  • Assist with paying bills or filling out forms
  • Walk the dog or feed pets
  • Help a person to leave the house, perhaps to visit a centre or the library
  • Prepare meals
  • Help the person attend school or college
  • Drive a person where they want to go
  • Help arrange a holiday
  • Help a person to do their hobbies or interests
  • Help a person to go to the dentist, doctor or hospital

A Personal Assistant can be a valuable way to ensure that a person remains in their own home, rather than going into residential care. Their role is flexible and they will respond to the needs of individual clients.


Q: How many hours does a Personal Assistant work?

The role of a Personal Assistant is flexible. Some PAs work full time, perhaps caring for one or two relatives, friends or people locally who have more intensive needs. Others may work for just a few hours a week which might include visiting a number of people for one or two hours at a time.

Some Personal Assistants also ‘live-in’ which means staying the night at the client’s house. This may be necessary if the person has more severe needs or is at risk of a fall. The job can be shared with other Personal Assistants if necessary.

Q: What qualifications does a Personal Assistant need to have?

There are no specific qualifications needed to be a Personal Assistant – in fact, because so many PAs care for family members, many will not have a relevant qualification. However, if you are a Personal Assistant looking for work outside of your family, you will often find that a DBS check is required.

Additionally, Personal Assistants should have a number of qualities that are essential to the job. These include:

  • Good health – the role may include physical work (such as cleaning/gardening) and some lifting.
  • Honesty – you may be required to help clients with their finances and paperwork.
  • Reliability – clients will depend on you so you need to be consistent in attending to them when you say you’re going to.
  • A good listener – many clients are elderly and may not see many people in the week so will enjoy speaking to you.
  • A good communicator – you may need to explain anything from medication to bills and finances.
  • Willing to learn – the role of a Personal Assistant is flexible and you’ll need to adapt to your client’s changing needs.
  • Proficient in basic skills – you’ll need basic reading, writing and numeracy skills to be able to help your client with everyday tasks from paying bills to drawing their pension.
  • Knowledgeable – you’ll need a fundamental knowledge of safeguarding, first aid, food hygiene, moving and handling clients, and infection control. Regardless of whether or not this is a legality, you’ll have to acquire this knowledge to be able to do your job safely and effectively.

You can acquire the knowledge you need to be an effective Personal Assistant by signing up to ukpas.co.uk. We offer a full programme of online training, with updates throughout the year. You’ll also find support from our network of PAs, whether you have a question or need to arrange cover during holiday periods. Click here to Register.

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