Homecare: what’s available?
If you need help around the home, a good option is to have a care worker come into your home to help you.
Private Home care costs can work out affordable. Depending on your circumstances, this may be funded by your local council or you may have to pay yourself.
Types of homecare
Homecare comes in many forms and there are many names used to describe it, including home help, care attendants, and “carers” (not to be confused with unpaid family or friends who care for you).
Homecare can suit you if you need:
Personal care, such as washing or dressing.
Housekeeping or domestic work, such as vacuuming.
Help with cooking or preparing meals.
Nursing and healthcare.
Homecare can be very flexible. The same person or agency may be able to provide some or all of these options for the duration of your care:
Long-term 24-hour care
Short breaks for an unpaid family carer
Sessions ranging from 15-minute visits to 24-hour assistance and everything in between
If you already know what you want, you can search NHS Choices directories for:
Local homecare services and agencies.
A list of national homecare organisations.
Supported living services – these are services that can help you stay safe and well in your home on a long-term basis, including financial help, help with medicines, advocacy, social support and practical support.
A place to live with a family who will care for you – this is known as shared lives services or adult placement services
Funding home care
If you believe you might benefit from some help at home, the first thing to do is to contact your local authority’s social services department to ask for a care needs assessment.
If you’re eligible for homecare services funded by your local council, your local council may provide or arrange the help themselves.
Alternatively, you can arrange your own care, funded by the council, through direct payments or a personal budget.
If you choose direct payments or a personal budget, or you aren’t eligible for council funding and want to get care privately, you can arrange it in several different ways:
Using a homecare agency.
Hiring a personal assistant.
Getting homecare from a charity, such as Age UK.
Independent homecare agencies.
If you use an independent homecare agency, you or the person looking after you has to find the care agency and pay them.
The homecare agency will provide a service through a trained team of care workers, which means you may not always have the same person visiting your home, although the agency will do its best to take your choices into account.
Homecare providers are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). They must meet the CQC’s national minimum standards and regulations in areas such as training and record keeping.
The CQC has the power to inspect agencies and enforce standards. Homecare agencies must vet homecare workers before engaging them by taking up references and carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on potential employees.
Homecare agencies can also:
Take over the burden of being an employer – for example, payroll, training, disciplinary issues and insurance
Train their homecare workers through national qualifications and service-specific training
Replace workers when they’re ill, on holiday or resign
Put things right when they go wrong
An agency will want to see you and the person looking after you so they can assess your needs.
This also means you can make a joint decision about the right type of care and support.
Find out more from the UK Homecare Association.
How much does a homecare agency cost
Using a homecare agency can be expensive. The agency will charge a fee on top of the payment made to the care worker to cover their running costs and profits.
You normally have to make a regular payment to the agency, which includes both the worker’s earnings and the agency’s fee.
Questions to ask when using a homecare agency
Before deciding to go ahead with an homecare agency, you should ask questions about the fee and what it covers.
Does the agency check references?
What training and supervision do they provide?
What’s their complaints policy?
Who’s responsible for insurance?
Is there any out-of-hours or emergency contact if needed?
Will they be able to provide staff if your own care worker is ill or away? If an agency is contracted to provide care every day, it must do that.