More and more individuals and their families are now turning to care agencies for support and care provision. In this guide we give you all the information you need to help you pick the right agency for you or a loved one.
In this section we explore the services home care assistance provides and offer useful, unbiased information to help you to decide whether care provided by domiciliary care agencies is suitable for you.
Home care agencies are companies who provide home care services through a bank of staff vetted and employed by them. They are usually dedicated to providing a certain type of care, whether that’s companionship and everyday tasks such as shopping and errands, or more intensive care provision, including personal care.
You may also hear home care assistance providers called, ‘home healthcare’, ‘home care providers’ or ‘domiciliary care providers’.
Home care agencies usually offer a range of care. They should match a carer to you based on your individual needs, and will try to take into account any personal preferences or religious requirements you may have.
Even if you have intensive care needs, there may be homecare agencies in your local area who offer specialised services which cater for you.
Here is a short video that sets out more information on a care needs assessment.
If you don’t feel that the services domiciliary agencies provide are appropriate for you, then there are alternatives, albeit with differing benefits and drawbacks. Many of these will provide similar options to home care services. These include:
Which you choose depends on your personal preference and care needs. If you feel you need further assistance in making your decision then ask family or friends for support, or speak to a qualified advisor who can help you to make an informed choice.
There are of course homecare costs involved in accessing the services home care agencies provide. Normally homecare, or home healthcare, is charged at an hourly rate – usually anywhere from £10-30 per hour. Home care costs will depend on the care company you choose and the type of care you need.
You may be able to pay in advance for your care on a ‘retainer’ basis – this means that you pay upfront for a month in advance.
Direct Debit plans may also be available, allowing you to ‘pay as you go’ each month without having to worry about receiving bills. It’s not normally common to pay by the hour, unless you receive care on an ad-hoc basis.
It’s also uncommon to pay the individual who visits you and administers your care, unless they are working privately as a freelance carer.
As with any type of care, it’s a good idea to work out your prospective homecare costs before you access care or embark on the process of choosing a care provider.
You can do this using our handy Home care Costs Calculator, which takes into account your future prognosis and the length of time for which you may need care.
If you a struggling to fund your care, you can also use certain benefits (and your pension if applicable) towards the cost of services provided by a home care agency.
There are 6 main ways in which you can fund your care, whether that be residential or home healthcare through a home care agency. We have produced a guide to the ways in which you can pay your care fees. We would recommend strongly that you read through this.
In addition, Attendance Allowance (available to over 65s) is specifically designed to pay for care in the home. Payments of Attendance Allowance are tiered – starting at £55 and rising to £82. This type of benefit is not means tested – the amount you receive will depend on how severe your care needs are and how frequently you require care assistance and support.
Mostly, homecare agencies offer services for people who with varying care needs, from low-level assistance weekly with shopping or housework to more intensive care support involving help with mobility and personal care (feeding, washing, dressing and toileting).
Generally speaking, the home care services an agency will offer are not suitable for those who need specialist nursing care or medical attention, or people with severe mental health problems including late-stage Dementia. Unfortunately residential care is often the only viable option in these circumstances.
To find out whether services offered by in home care providers are right for you, there are a number of steps you need to take.
Firstly you’ll need to obtain a care needs assessment. You can do this by speaking to your GP, consultant or social care worker. They’ll arrange for an assessment to be made by a medical professional which gives a detailed idea of what you’ll need now. It may also give recommendations for the future.
Once you have a care assessment you can search for home care providers in your area who will accommodate the needs you have.
Choosing can feel like an overwhelming prospect when you are faced with a large number of care agencies, all appearing to offer similar services, all claiming to be the ‘best’.
To help you through the process we have produced a guide setting out the 5 steps to find a care agency.
If however, you decide that going in to a care home is the right option for you, then here is our short video that sets out the 5 steps to finding a care home.
However, assuming you want to use home healthcare, we recommend a set structure when choosing a domiciliary care provider:
Once you’ve shortlisted the care agencies you feel appear to be the best for you, you can contact them to organise a meeting.
Health agencies normally take on staff who have a genuine interest in helping others, and a caring attitude. Mostly they require experience in a caregiving role of some sort, whether that is in childcare, or in a nursing home.
Everyone you come into contact with through a care agency should be DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checked and approved, and should have relevant training if they are going to be lifting or carrying out specialist activities. Some carers may be medically trained – these are usually healthcare assistants or nurses.
The best way to ensure that the care agencies you are considering are reputable is to check online for reviews, or ask around to see if anyone you know has had an experience with them previously (good or bad).
Word of mouth testimonials are the only sure way to know that the service you’ll get will be as good as you expect it will be.
You can also check the official reports made by the CQC (Care Quality Commission), and ask if the care agencies you’re considering are members of the UKHCA (UK Home Care Association). There’s more on this below.
Yes. a home care agency is subject to checks in the same way as residential care homes are.
The UKHCA is the official regulatory body for care agencies in England, Scotland and Wales. Membership isn’t compulsory, but it is therefore the sign of a responsible reputable agency. Home care agencies vetted by the UKHCA are subject to strict, frequent checks and must attend training in order to maintain a high standard of care.
All agencies are also subject to regulation and inspection by the CQC (Care Quality Commission). This is the official body which also assesses care standards in nursing and residential homes.
Each company has a slightly different process – but broadly the following should occur when you contact a care agency.
If you feel you have been treated badly or unfairly by an agency, or their conduct has not been as you would have expected, you can complain to the CQC.