Employing a care agency in Dorset

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Home care from a care agency like Prama provides support and assistance to people in their own home, helping in whatever way is necessary to remain there for as long as possible as independently as possible. Employing a homecare agency gives you flexibility in that every client is treated as an individual with a care package designed to meet their specific needs, needs which can of course change over time.  The types of services that a care agency can provide are:

  • Personal care – dressing, washing and bathing, preparing meals, shopping
  • Sitting services – when someone can’t be left alone, giving the carer a break
  • Nail cutting services – something we all need!
  • Dementia care
  • Occasional overnight services for clients using our service.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a care agency.

How to find care agencies

Dorset County Council provides a directory listing of local care agencies in Dorset. You can then short list perhaps by where they operate, the services they offer etc. Review their performance at the Care Quality Commission website where you can read inspection reports.

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 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?
  • How long will it take to start the service?
  • What time of day will they arrive? How long will they stay? How flexible is this?
  • Will there be enough time during a visit for a wash, help with dressing and breakfast preparation?
  • My Mum doesn’t want to wait till 9.30am to be helped up in the morning – can she get up at her normal time with your help? And she doesn’t want her evening meal at 5.30pm or to be in bed by 8pm – will this be a problem?
  • 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.)
  • What happens if I need to cancel care, will I still be charged the full amount even if they go into hospital or cancel for another reason at short notice?
  • How do we complain if we think there’s a problem?
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 agency will be responsible for all staff training and will ensure the ongoing personal development of their employees
  • If a change in the equipment to look after your relatives is needed the agency will liaise with health professionals and ensure the staff are trained to use it.

The challenges 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 may 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
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.