Who am I?
My name is Jack Quarmby, I’m 37 and I live in Oldham.
How did I get into this work?
While I was at sixth form college, where I studied Health and Social care, I worked at the weekends in a care home, and got some great experience doing some voluntary work in social care. I actually ended up being a pharmacy dispenser for 12 years working in local community pharmacies, but along the way I was introduced to a young man called Garry who needed a PA. We hit it off and I took on an extra job as his PA working 3 evenings a week – taking him to the gym, to play snooker, and to the cinema. It was a dream job, getting paid to do things I enjoyed anyway. When my baby son came along I had to give up that role, but was eventually persuaded back by Garry to support him one evening a week.
I also injured my back when my son was little – and that meant an end to my career in pharmacy – all the long hours standing, lifting and reaching weren’t possible anymore. My mum spotted a job with an organisation called Pure Innovations that led to me working alongside people with a learning disability and people with mental illness doing all sorts education, life skills, cooking, art projects, music, painting and decorating – the list went on and I truly earned my name Jack of all trades! Through that I met a number of people who needed PAs, and slowly came into the PA role again, until I was a full time PA, supporting a number of different people in the week.
I met other PAs and we set up a bit of a network – and social workers got to know us and asked us to help some of the people they support to find PAs. This has led to a steady stream of people to support, and I’ve been able to work full time in a job I love. The individual employers are my boss and they make cracking bosses!
What does the role mean to me?
I think our role is to provide the anchor - the safety and confidence - for the individual employers to interact with the world in the way they wish without fear. The role involves everything from fun events bowling, cinemas, education and social events. We talk, we eat together, we walk together. When times are good we get to enjoy life with our employers.
We are there for help and assistance for what our employers can’t do or don’t understand such as benefits, meetings, doctors, housing, travel, family, health and welfare. We assist our clients to access these things whilst ensuring they get the most out of them and fair treatment when they do.
We are also there for the bad times and the worst - family members passing, the breakdown in relationships, injuries and sickness and to help people come through those. I know I’ve made a big difference to people’s lives and helped them through the hardest battles.
What do I enjoy most?
I enjoy being the person that helps them find their confidence. Helping someone find their confidence is really the key to this job. I’m always surprised to see what my employers can do when they have got their confidence and believe in themselves.
My latest thumbs up was about an employer I’ve worked with for just over a year. He’s always wanted to build PCs – he’s a big gamer - and to be able to service his PC. I’ve showed him and helped him – and was really pleased to get a text from him a few weeks ago telling me he had upgraded his friends machine with the new parts he’d got and it worked first time. We’ll never know how much of this was down to me, and how much down to him. It feels weird to take credit for it when he did the work but…
There’s lots of little stories like these that I never really get to tell to people they are small things that have made a massive difference to how my employers live their life.
I really enjoy my job - I love the flexibility of the hours. I can be home in time for my kids and I get to be a dad at weekends and I get paid for a job I love doing.
What would I say to other people who may be considering this line of work?
Just being there makes a big difference to someone else’s life. Just by being yourself and helping someone else you can help someone to make changes within their life to move on and enjoy it and live it without feeling they are being left behind. We’re helping people be a part of life - even if just one doing ‘normal’ things that the rest of us take for granted.
I would advise people to connect to others doing the same job – it can sometimes feel like you’re on your own if you don’t get to do this – I’m really glad to be part of a wider network.