Dale and Omar’s Story

Dale:I started working for Omar when he was a student at Edinburgh Napier University. I had no experience of supporting someone with a disability, but I did know what it was like to be at college –both the pressures and the social life!”

Omar (PA Employer):Until university, my family had provided all my support so I had lived a rather sheltered life. When I was preparing to leave school there was no information available so I did not realise that I could receive practical support with my studies. During my first year at university, my mum had to attend with me to scribe. Although I have a warm relationship with my family and greatly appreciate their support, I wanted to be more independent and embrace all aspects of university life. Things changed when I met the university disability adviser who helped me to apply for a grant from the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) to employ someone. I was a bit nervous about employing someone and it took a while for me to arrange the interview with Dale, but we hit it off right away – over football!”

Dale (PA):In 2006, I had just completed a degree in sports coaching and was looking for a part time job to tide me over for a couple of months, when I saw Omar’s advert. Ten years later, I’m still here!  Seriously, I felt at ease with Dale as we were of a similar age and had the same outlook on life – sometimes you just have to go on instinct. By the time I started third year, Dale was working for me.  The SAAS grant covered the specific practical support with my studies, but I needed general support at other times too. The adviser had also told me about the Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCIL) so I contacted them and with their help, I applied for Selfdirected Support. I chose a direct payment because I wanted to be in control of my support and I used the direct payment to increase”

Dale and Omar Speech 1
Dale and Omar Speech 2
Omar 2

Dale’s hours.

Dale:On a day to day basis I support Omar with personal care, general domestic stuff, shopping, bill paying, etc. He employs a second PA for evenings and weekends. When I first started, Omar told me that when he was at school he received regular physiotherapy which had greatly helped his mobility. When the service ended, Omar’s condition deteriorated and he was forced to use his wheelchair all the time. Due to the knowledge gained on my degree course, I was confident about developing exercise programmes for Omar, in conjunction with advice from a physiotherapist, and these are now part of our daily routine. As a result, Omar can now walk short distances around his home with support.”

Omar:My first contact with LCIL was in 2006 to seek assistance. Now, 11 years later, I work there part time as an Independent Living Officer, providing others with the type of assistance that I received. Dale couldn’t drive when he started working for me, but he took lessons, passed his test and now he drives me to and from work. Dale also assists me to travel to home visits, conduct PA training sessions and to carry out admin tasks, all related to my job – he is my ‘hands’ at work. In 2014, I moved into my own home. This was a huge transition for both me and my family.  My parents were very supportive, but I know this was primarily because they have such trust in Dale’s abilities and commitment.  Having PAs has literally changed my life. For me the two key words related to working effectively with a PA are ‘trust’ and ‘communication.’ After ten years I would describe us as ‘best mates’ and we have a really close relationship. We do a lot of social things on my days off, from time to time I spend time with Dale’s wife and children, and Dale spends time with my family. This kind of relationship may not suit everyone, but the reason it works is because Dale “gets it,” as they say. I don’t have to ‘remind’ him that I am the employer because we have a deep mutual trust and I know that he understands the PA/PA employer relationship through the quality of support he provides and by the way he respects my wishes – even if he doesn’t always agree!”

Dale:No two days are the same working with Omar and that variety is one of the things I enjoy most about being a PA. I also enjoy working and building a relationship with one person and I value being able to support Omar to live his life as he chooses. I get a great deal of satisfaction from that. It’s not all plain sailing of course, there is the occasional ‘niggle’ but we don’t let it fester. As Omar says, good communication is the key and I can honestly say we have hardly had a cross word in ten years. When I first started work with Omar, I must be honest and say that I felt reticent about how to relate to him, as I did not wish to inadvertently cause offence. However on one of my first days I heard him enjoying a joke with one of the university janitors, so I think the banter started from that moment!”