This blog shares a care leaver’s experience with their Personal Advisor (PA) and the barriers which stopped them getting the support they needed. Upon reflection, they share what their ideal PA would be like.
What is a Personal Advisor (PA)?
A Personal Advisor (PA) is someone who acts as a focal point to make sure that a young person leaving care gets the right support as they move into adulthood. Your PA will assist you to develop skills that will help you to live independently at time when you are ready to do so.
My experience with my PA.
Upon reaching the age of 18, I was assigned a personal advisor (PA). She provided me with all her contact information, her working days, and other relevant information. There was always a feeling that I could have been supported more, that she could have been more resourceful. Most of the time, I was the one who had to pursue her for assistance regarding education, extracurricular activities, employment, health, finances, social needs, relationships, and accommodations. My personal advisor was supposed to ensure that I had a relevant, up-to-date pathway plan that considered my current needs and what needs to take place to assist my transition into adulthood and independence. Nonetheless, my personal advisor did not spend much time with me, and everything seemed very limited to me. It was on her as a professional to try and support me. What is the point in me doing all the chasing?
I felt very alone during the moving process into my own apartment. I did not receive any advice and could not ask the questions I needed to ask. I participated in blind bidding, which is a process in which you make a bid for a property without seeing it, and if you do not bid, you may not have the opportunity to bid on another property. In my case, as a care leaver, who has been through numerous placements and homes, I was not able to blind bid, I did not even know what to look for or what might possibly be a suitable home. If care leavers reject an offer for a property, they are not comfortable with, then they may become homeless. As a result, the Local Authority would not be obligated to rehouse them. I would have been able to put the pieces together in a very daunting and challenging process if I had the support of PA at the time I was looking for my housing.
As personal advisors may be responsible for 30-40 young people, there may be a high turnover of staff due to the procedures associated with the position. It is up to them to make it work and not a care leaver as they still require assistance, support, and continuity after leaving care.
Upon reflecting on my experience, I wanted to share what my ideal PA would be like.
- They would be resourceful– Being resourceful is a great skill my PA should have. Resourcefulness is the ability to recognise opportunities, even when it is camouflaged by a thicket of challenges. It’s about having the mindset to look for what’s in front of you and to optimise what you must work with. My PA should be looking for resources that can support me with my education, extra curriculum, employment, health, finances, social needs, relationships, and education.
- They would understand me on an emotional level– I should have subjective feelings that brings me and my PA together, creating a great bond between us. I would want my PA to be able to connect with me on a deeper level- and feel secure connecting that deeply. I should be able to tell my PA how I am feeling, if I’m struggling or what’s has going on in my life. It’s also about my PA thinking of their role they are doing as more than just a job, it’s about having a strong friendship.
- They would have empathy for me- By being able to have the ability to identify and understand my personal experience, they would also have to understand my point of view. My ideal PA would have good communication- both verbal and non- verbal is vital for my PA to have. The ability to communicate clearly with me is essential.
- They would make an effort– Effort means paying attention to needs. My ideal PA should be working hard to ensure I have a good relationship with them and more support. It’s about them making me feel valued which is far beyond just material things. My PA should be communicating with me more, resolving issues with me, listening to me, going out and doing activities with me like catch ups in the park or a coffee, helping me achieve my goals, they should also encourage and believe in me.
- They would be a good listener– Counselling skills include active listening and a non-judgmental approach; sensitivity and understanding, patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. My ideal PA should be establishing and building rapport while talking to me using verbal and nonverbal behaviour, eye contact, facial expressions and taking in everything I’m saying to them. My ideal PA would have the ability to focus completely on me as the speaker, understand my message, comprehend the information, and respond thoughtfully. Active listening is necessary for my PA to understand and identify my needs. Listening carefully, concentrating, asking the right questions.
- They would have good time management skills- The ability to use one’s time effectively or productively is really important. My ideal PA should be organising and planning how to divide their time between different activities even when time is tight, and pressures are high.
- They would be reliable- They would be trustworthy and performing consistently well. They would be dependable. They would do what they say they will do and never break their promises or let me down.
We want to hear from you, what would your ideal PA be like? Email us [email protected].
Help at hand is for teenagers in care and care leavers offering free, independent advice, assistance and representation.
If you need support with a difficult issue, get in touch with them: young person and need advice or support visit our Help at Hand site or call Help at Hand on 0800 528 0731, you can also check out our range of support links.