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Mary Heywood is 58 and lives in Bury. She shares her favourite memories of being a Personal Assistant in Care for children with additional support needs, and how she came to be in a career that is “certainly never dull, always keeps you on your toes, and is so worthwhile and enjoyable”.


“In my time working as a PA I have been on a motor boat, swimming, walking, to the cinema and had some fantastic days out at the seaside. However, I have learnt that it is sometimes the simple things that make memories. One that sticks with me is being blown off our feet on the beach when we initially wanted to visit the Tower at Blackpool but it was far too busy to get the wheel chair through and too noisy for my little friend.

I always wanted to work with children and was the girl in our avenue who would always offer to walk round pushing the baby in the pram. I wanted a job in child care but drifted into insurance work which I stayed with, and enjoyed, until my second child was born in 1995.


I felt it was then time for a change, so I complied my level 3 qualification and started work at a local nursery and then at a primary school where I supported children with additional needs. This was such a rewarding role and I loved thinking of new ways to engage with, and different ways to help, the children to learn.

I eventually ran the before and after school club at a private school in Bury and continued my work as a special needs assistant there. To this day I still have contact with Erin and her family, one of the young people I supported. We met when she was 8 years old and I worked in her class. We are still very much part of each other’s families.

Mary and Erin

I was very lucky to secure a job at a special school in Bury in 2007. And I also worked part time with disabled children who attended the school, as a Personal Assistant in Care (PA), employed by their families and paid by them through a direct payment (the families receive a personal budget which they can spend on health and care support as they feel appropriate, rather than relying on traditional services).

Children’s safety and enjoyment are always my priority and I work with children with differing needs physically and mentally. Respecting the needs of the child and working out what they really enjoy enables me to bond with the child and their parents. I still work as a PA on a regular basis for the same young lady I have known for the last 13 years. Trust and respect have grown between us and her parents to the point that I now will stay overnight to care for her. This takes time and lots of listening. You really have to get to know the people you are supporting, and their families, because being a PA is about supporting them to live the life they want, whatever that may mean to them.

And always have a plan B, C and D! My first role as a PA involved arriving at the swimming pool to find it closed, then trying a cafe play area which was also closed, so we ended up in a local supermarket cafe with a very vocal and hungry young girl. But I have very happy memories of that lunch. Working as a PA is certainly never dull. It always keeps you on your toes, and is so worthwhile and enjoyable.


Mary is working with us to raise awareness of the PA role, so more brilliant people like her choose to work with those who need care and support to live a good life.


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