What’s the difference between a carer, a support worker and a personal assistant?

A PA and her client
KCIL’s PA/Support Worker Hub has job posts with a selection of different job titles; support worker, personal assistant, and more, so what’s the difference between the roles?
KCIL members and their PA at the coffee morning


A carer is somebody who cares for someone. This may be a paid role, or it could be an unpaid role, for example, when looking after a family member or a friend.

Carers normally work within the person’s home, supporting personal care and helping with meals and household tasks.

Support workers

A support worker is a paid position, the support worker may have had training, or they may have the possibility of training in the future. They can work within the disabled person’s home or out in the community, supporting that person to live independently. 

The support worker may work for an agency, an organisation that supports people in the community or directly for the disabled person.

A KCIL member and his PA enjoying a KCIL coffee morning

Personal assistants

Personal assistants, also known as PAs, work directly for the disabled person. They may be employed by the disabled person or by a member of the disabled person’s family, or they may be self-employed. The personal assistant works within the disabled person’s home and may go out on trips with them into the community. 

The role of a PA can be very varied, they assist the disabled person to live independently, so this can range from supporting with personal care to being out in the community. Each PA role is unique; the tasks required will be listed in the job description when applying for the job. PAs can work for more than one person. As the PA progresses through their career, they will develop skills, experience and training that support them in their work.

The terms carer, support worker and personal assistant can be interchangeable. At KCIL, we often advertise our roles as Personal Assistant/Support Worker or Personal Assistant/Carer, using words that the person we’re advertising for feels comfortable with. 

When job hunting for a role in the care sector, we recommend not restricting yourself to searching for just one type of care job, be that just searching for jobs with ‘carer’ in the title or just searching ‘support worker’ roles.  Each position is different, the perfect job may just be a click away.

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