Growing up, 24-year-old Holly never thought she would move out of her family home. Now she lives in her own flat and manages her care. Here Holly shares her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories project.
I’m Holly, I live in Portsmouth and I have cerebral palsy and scoliosis. My disability means that I have little use in my arms and legs so I use a wheelchair and have a team of personal assistants (PA’s) to help me live independently.
Growing up I lived a relatively normal life; I went to mainstream school, got my GCSE’s and A levels, had friends and fought with my siblings.
But I never really imagined moving out of home. I thought, even though I was the eldest I would be the last to move out, if I ever did, and I guess I thought my disability was a barrier.
But back when all my friends were moving away for university I had a sudden change of thought. I decided to apply to university 200 miles from home.
Three months later I moved out of home and moved into halls. Like most freshers, I found the first few months really stressful with the distance and sudden responsibility. But for the first time in my life, I was being cared for by strangers and this was daunting.
For three out of what became four years at university I used care agencies to help meet my care needs. In my last year, due to inadequate support, I decided to become an individual employer and recruit my own team of PA’s.
I haven’t looked back since. I am in full control of my care needs, I choose who works for me, which is better than having around 20 different carers per week, and I can choose exactly what times they work.
Having my own team means that I can go out and live a fully independent life.
I would advise anyone who doesn’t have the right support to consider being an employer. The set up is a little difficult but is so worth it in long run. Skills for Care offer a free ‘Employing Personal Assistants’ toolkit that contains lots of useful information.
And be sure to ask your social worker if they know of any services that help those who employ their own PA’s. For example in Portsmouth I volunteer on the ‘Portsmouth PA Noticeboard’, which helps employers find personal assistants and helps personal assistants find work.
I have graduated from university and am now living in my own flat with my two pets. I advocate for disability rights and awareness through volunteering and writing a blog about my life.
I do not think any of this would’ve been possible without the right care and support, I just wish I’d found it sooner!
Find out more about Holly at her blog.