History of the PA Role

Self-directed Support legislation means that people now have the right to choose how they are assisted with their independent living needs and this can mean employing their own staff using local authority funding.

The Independent Living Movement has campaigned for many years for disabled people to have the right to control their own lives and the assistance needed to live those lives to the fullest. Personal assistance emerged from that campaign. Personal assistance is a fundamental necessity to enable people to live a full independent life. Independent living means having the same choices and control in every-day lives that non-disabled people take for granted. PAs are people who support their disabled employer to live an independent life.

In the summer of 1991 the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People’s (BCODP) Independent Living Committee elected to organise two national seminars on ‘independent living and personal assistance’ for disabled people. The twin aims of these events were to develop further the principles of ‘independent living’ for disabled people and to introduce newcomers to the disability rights movement to self-operated personal assistance schemes (BCODP, August 1992 p.5)

Many of the ideas which currently cluster together under the banner of ‘independent living’ have been part and parcel of the struggles and aspirations of individual disabled people, probably as long as disabled people have dreamed of  independence. A central element of ‘independent living’ is personal assistance and, in particular, having direct access to the cash which gives freedom to hire and fire assistants who carry out duties determined by and under the direction of the disabled person themselves.

It is sometimes overlooked that, in the same way that the British disabled people’s movement has a long history of growth -since at least the 1890’s -so too has the development of ideas around the notion of ‘independent living’ and personal assistance. Certainly in Britain, as elsewhere in the world, these ideas came out of the experiences of many early pioneers, whose struggles were more directed to ‘living independently’ than to ‘independent living’ (Maggie Davis, BCODP, August 1992 p.15).

Next steps

Check out the video links below for further information on independent support and SDS.

Part of
Last Updated
13 July 2022
First Published
01 April 2022
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Please note that the information contained in this Handbook is provided for guidance purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Self Directed Support Scotland or any other contributing party.

The information does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal and professional advice from a lawyer about employment law matters, or an accountant/ tax specialist about taxation matters, and from HMRC and your insurers. You should not rely solely on the information in this Handbook. Support organisations listed in this Handbook can help you find appropriate sources of advice.