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Employing a Care Agency

23rd September 2015

Home care provides support and assistance to people in their own home, helping in whatever way is necessary to remain living independently for as long as possible.  Care packages are designed to meet the specific needs of an individual and which can change over time.  Here are some things to consider when choosing a care agency.

How to find care agencies

Your local authority social services can give you a list of local care providers (agencies).   You can also go to the Care Quality Commission website and search by area.  You should then contact at least two or three agencies and ask them to send you their details and price list. A wide range of services are available and a care plan will be tailored to meet your relative’s particular needs (both in terms of what they need help with and how often). If you haven’t had asked your relative’s GP for a social services needs assessment you should do so now, as they may be entitled to free or subsidised home care.

What questions should I ask a care agency?

• Can the home care agency give the specific care that my relative needs and meet their personal preferences?
• Have the staff cared for someone with similar needs?
• Will the same person care for my relative most of the time, or will it be someone different each time?
• How will they select the most suitable care worker(s) for their needs?
• What sort of training do the care workers receive before they start work and during their employment?
• If care isn’t being funded by the local council, is there a standard contract that we can read before signing?
• Can we contact your agency during the day, outside office hours and in an emergency?
• What happens if the regular care worker is sick or on holiday?
• What charges, if any, will we be expected to pay?
• Is there a minimum charge if my relative only needs a small amount of care?
• Are there any hidden extras in the prices you quote? (Prices normally include National Insurance contributions,  travel expenses and any VAT payable.)

How much do care agencies cost?

The cost of home care can vary hugely by location and depends on the number of hours of care required, and when it is needed. Different care agencies operate different tariffs depending on the level of care required.

 The advantages of using an agency:

• Someone will always turn up: if one carer is ill or away, another one will turn up – important peace of mind if you don’t live close to your relative
• The agency will take all of the employers’ responsibilities – hiring, vetting, PAYE etc
• There will just be one monthly invoice for care provided (unless paid for directly by Social Services)
• If you are not happy with an individual carer or with the care provided, you can take it up with the agency manager,   and do not need to discuss directly with the carer
• If your relative goes into hospital or away on holiday you will not usually pay for care
• You can increase (or decrease) the number of hours’ care relatively easily

 The disadvantages of using an agency:

• The same person does not necessarily come every time, and sometimes a completely new carer will turn up whom your relative has never met before
• If you do not live near your relative and want to check up on how things are going, the agency manager will not  necessarily have first-hand knowledge of the situation
• The carers will have a tight schedule of calls and be unable to be flexible about staying for an extra 10 minutes if  needed
• The hourly rates are higher than for a directly hired carer
• In some rural areas, you may have very little choice about which agency you can use, and you may not like the only one available

There are some helpful pointers to choosing a care agency in Which? Guide to Choosing a Home Care Agent
Local agencies for England are listed and rated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

You might also be interested in finding out about Hiring a carer. There is no “one size fits all” solution regarding additional care at home. The most important thing is that you feel confident your parents are being well supported and able to continue to live in their home.

What is your experience of carers and care agencies? We would love to hear from you. If you have advice you would like to share or would like to see what experience others have had, do join the conversation in Age Space Forum.

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