Why take on a carer?
There are lots of good reasons to consider hiring a carer. You get to recruit the person you want, and you can guarantee that they will be there every day. However, there are several things you need to take into consideration.
- You will need to advertise, shortlist, interview and select the candidates. You will also need to carry out all background checks (Disclosure and Barring Service – DBS – and references). There are agencies who can help you with this process.
- If your elderly relative needs care 7 days a week, even if it is only for a few hours a day, you will need at least 2 carers to cover the whole week, plus holiday and sick leave.
- If you hire an individual carer you – or your relative – become an employer and have to register with HMRC as an employer. You will have to operate PAYE, paying National Insurance and statutory sick pay (SSP). You will also have to have employer’s liability insurance.
The advantages of hiring a carer directly:
- The big advantage of hiring a carer to look after you or a relative is that you get to choose the person yourself and they will always be the one who turns up
- It makes it easier to build a relationship with them, and the may become as much a companion as a carer
- It’s cheaper than paying for care via an agency
- If you want your carer to drive your car it’s easier to have named drivers on the insurance
- You can use your Personal Budget from Social Services, if you get one, to pay for the carer
The disadvantages to hiring a carer directly:
- You will need to hire 2 carers to ensure cover for holidays and sickness
- Having to pay the carer even if your relative is in hospital or on holiday
- You or your elderly relative will have to become an employer and be responsible for vetting (DBS – Disclosure & Barring Service), taking up references, checking immigration status, issuing a contract, taking out insurance, paying tax and NI (PAYE)
- Investing time into advertising, creating a short list and interviewing candidates (although you can pay an agency to do part of this bit, plus DBS and immigration status checks)
- It requires a high level of trust to have someone in the house of a potentially vulnerable person, especially if they live alone and you do not live nearby
- If things don’t work out with the carer, you will have to start again from scratch, possibly at very short notice.
- You need to know that they have the right training and moving and handling techniques to look after your relatives
If your elderly relative has a spare room and does not need specialist nursing care it may be worth considering getting an au pair. There is no legal definition of an au pair, but they are usually foreign nationals who are aiming to improve their English and who work for up to 30 hours doing light household work for pocket money of £70-85. They are not classed as employees, do not get SSP and are not paid the National Living Wage.
There are also organisations such as Universal Aunts, or Country Cousins, who provide live in or live out companions, housekeepers etc. You might also find useful organisations locally including the Women’s Voluntary Service and other charities. All these options could be particularly appropriate for someone who does not need much assistance with personal care, but who needs some help domestically and would appreciate some companionship.
Ten tips to make hiring a carer easier:
- Don’t wait
- Ask for references.
- Be specific and realistic about your wants and needs.
- Leave plenty of time to find someone and be prepared to go through several people.
- Trust your instincts. And don’t be afraid to say no if someone doesn’t feel like a good fit.
- Put your expectations in writing so you, your parent and the carer understand what is expected.
- Find someone who’s specifically trained to handle the care that your parents need.
- Recognise that it will not be the same as if you cared for them yourself.
- Manage your expectations. Find someone who is genuine and caring even if you have to go through two or three people to do it.
- No matter what else, make sure they genuinely care. Anything else can be taught but that is essential.
- Be patient. In-home care can seem like an invasion but, hopefully, the carers soon become friends/companions.
You might also be interested in guidance about employing a care agency.