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Personal Assistance: The Challenge of Autonomy

Graby, Steven David (2018) Personal Assistance: The Challenge of Autonomy. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis investigates the employment of personal assistants (PAs) by disabled individuals in the UK. Personal assistance is considered to be one of the most essential services necessary for disabled people to achieve ‘independent living’, and as such the right to directly employ PAs and to receive the funding needed to do so has been a central campaign objective of the Disabled People’s Movement (DPM) in the UK and elsewhere. However, both the employment of PAs and the concept of ‘independent living’ contain contradictions. Waged employment has been identified as a source of disabled people’s oppression, but in the personal assistance relationship it is treated as a means to their emancipation. The concept of ‘independence’ within the DPM framing of ‘independent living’ can be equated to autonomy, but the autonomy of disabled people is arguably achieved at the expense of that of PAs as workers. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with both PAs and disabled employers of PAs were used to attempt to gain new insight into these contradictions. Topics covered in these interviews included the relationships between PAs and employers, their interaction with other social relationships, the occupational status of PAs and possible ways to improve it, and barriers to the implementation of personal assistance as it was envisaged by the DPM. Both PAs and their employers are severely impacted by the political economics of austerity and the cultural devaluation of ‘dependence’ and the labour associated with it. Potential exists for organising personal assistance in ways other than direct employment of PAs by individuals, such as through co-operatives or informal collective models. However, all of these have advantages and disadvantages compared with direct employment. The thesis concludes with recommendations for policy, for further research and for action priorities within the DPM on personal assistance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: personal assistance, independent living, independence, autonomy, social care, disabled people, disabled people's movement, precarious work, post-work, co-operatives
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.770075
Depositing User: Mr Steven David Graby
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2019 08:55
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23231

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