By Graham Tucker
One day I woke up and started a whole new phase in my life. I was a newly divorced sixty something overweight guy who happened to have a visual impairment and a list of medical ailments as long as your arm. There I was now living alone, somewhat socially isolated and pigeon holed as a “vulnerable person” in need of help.
There were many hoops to jump through with social services and it seemed like a circus; the assessment process was a nightmare. I was told that Tesco did some very nice microwave dinners – not what I wanted to hear given my desire to eat more healthily and lose some weight. In the end I was given a massive four hours a week support, which I eventually got increased to six hours a week.
I discovered by chance the Personal Budget scheme. Back in the circus ring, with more hoops to jump through, I eventually I gained control over how I used my six hours a week. So, with help, I employed a Personal Assistant (PA) and became an employer. It sounds – and was – challenging, but the finances and payroll were looked after by a charity who took all the worry out of it. All I do is complete a time sheet for my PA every four weeks. My local authority pays my direct payments to the payroll company and I, with more help, arrange the all-important public liability insurance.
The downside is that six hours a week was never going to be enough. I joined a gym through a local scheme called Fresh Start which involved a referral from my GP. It was a 12 week course targeted at my needs and ability. Best of all it was free! The downside was it used nearly 50% of my PA time, but it was beneficial. I decided to invest the money I would spend on a gym membership on my own cross trainer which now sits in my living room and is used most days
Having a PA enables me to make better choices. She helps prepare fresh vegetables, meals and acts as my eyes when shopping, constantly checking those “traffic light” indicators on the food labels. I have a great PA however before I got her, over a year ago there were several bad experiences with others. Six hours a week is nowhere near long enough but it has led me on to better things.