21 Jul 2015

OU/BBC: Upcoming New Series - Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant

Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant

Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant

Life with a disability can be one challenge after another. Finding the right carer can open up this world of possibilities. As part of BBC Three’s ‘Defying the Label’ season, The Open University (OU) has co-produced ‘Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant’ - a compelling new two part documentary series in which four ambitious young people with disabilities employ people their own age to support them.

Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant explores what happens when four young people with disabilities put all of their care needs in the hands of unemployed people their own age for ten days. To ensure applicants come to the role with an open mind the exact nature of the job and the employers disabilities aren’t revealed until the final job interview. Nothing is off limits as these new PA’s tackle everything from making trips abroad happen to all aspects of intimate personal care, including washing, dressing, showering and toileting - they embark on life changing adventures with their new boss. Janet Bardsley, Lecturer in Social Work and the OU’s academic consultant on the programme said: “Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant takes a very challenging subject - that of supporting young people with disabilities looking to live life to the full in the way they want, and the preconceptions of other young people who may have never considered the realities of living with disability.”

Will seeing the world from a different point of view help break down preconceptions of disability and unemployment. Could challenging shared experiences lead to lasting friendships and even a rewarding new career? Ms Bardsley adds: “Viewers of the series will be both surprised and touched by how both groups of young people respond to their new responsibilities and challenge their preconceptions of both disability and unemployment.”

There are currently around 300,000 young disabled people in the UK who rely on carers for their daily needs. For many of these ambitious young people finding the right carer is the difference between achieving their ambitions or a life unfulfilled. But as a young disabled person in Britain your options are limited, as the majority of people working in care are over 40 years old. But with three quarters of a million young people under 24 currently looking for work, could the solution being staring us in the face?

To accompany the series OpenLearn - the OU’s home of free learning, has created a ‘Could you be a personal assistant?’ discussion hub. The hub will enable viewers to share and debate their views about being a personal assistant and read articles on the subject from OU academics. To find out more please visit: open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/tv/ou-on-the-bbc-wanted-very-personal-assistant-0

The series is part of the BBC’s Defying the Label season of compelling, untold stories revealing a glimpse of life as a young, disabled person will air on BBC Three this summer. Through 15 specialist documentaries, current affairs features, a factual drama and a comedy panel game show, the season will explore issues ranging from invisible injuries to acquiring a disability later in life; sex and romance; poverty; bullying; hate crime and role models. The OU has also co-produced another programme in the season entitled ‘Life Begins Now’. For further details visit: bbc.co.uk/lifebeginsnow

The Defying the Label supports the OU’s ambition to offer education to help people living with disabilities to live life to the full and to enable those without disabilities to support them. The faculty is also working to offer career pathways to young people in the health and social care sector. For further information please visit The OpenLearn website

The first episode of Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant is on BBC Three at 21.00 on Friday 24 July 2015. Full broadcast details, and watch again links can be found at: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b063j9hx

The series is made by Ricochet
Executive Producers: Joanna Ball and Tim Quicke
BBC Commissioning Editor: Elliot Reed


Notes to Editors

About The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC and has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to co-producing prime-time series such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, Britain’s Great War, I Bought a Rainforest and Business Boomers. Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes over 800 free courses on OpenLearn, which receives 4.5 visitors a year, and materials on YouTube, Bibblio, AudioBoo and iTunes U, which has recorded over 69m million downloads.
For further information please visit: www.open.ac.uk

The BBC has implemented ambitious plans to increase diversity on and off air, and aims to quadruple on screen portrayal of people with disabilities by 2017 as part of this.

For more information on BBC Three’s ‘Defying the Label’ season please visit:
• For Previews of the programmes, click here, and use your BBC Press Previews account here to search for individual titles
• For BBC Pictures please ask your picture desk to contact the team here
• www.bbc.co.uk/defyingthelabel

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