If you’re finding it difficult to carry out everyday tasks, such as washing and dressing, getting in and out of bed or taking your medication, you can get help. Support from a home care agency could enable you to go on living independently in your own home.
What is a home care agency?
Home care agencies employ care workers and arrange for them to visit you to provide care services. You could get help with:
eating and drinking
bathing and personal hygiene
getting in and out of bed
getting dressed and undressed
doing your weekly shopping or collecting prescriptions
getting out and about, such as going to a lunch club or going to appointments.
Some home care agencies also provide nursing care to people in their own homes. Any nursing care must be carried out, or planned and supervised, by a registered nurse.
All home care agencies must register with the a care regulator, which regulates and inspects them. Care regulators will only register a home care agency if it meets their minimum standards. These requirements do not apply to employment agencies that help you find self-employed nurses and care workers.
There are different care regulators depending on where you live:
If you think you need some help, the first step is to get a free care needs assessment from your local council. This looks at what your needs are and whether these needs qualify for help from the council. Find out more on Getting a care needs assessment.
Even if you’re going to organise your own care directly with an agency, it’s a good idea to get an assessment first so you can explain to the agency what support you need.
It may also be useful to ask for occupational therapy to be involved in your assessment. They look at any difficulties you have around your home. They might recommend disability equipment or an adaptation to your home that could make life easier.
Support with a care needs assessment
You can have a friend, relative or an independent advocate with you during the assessment. Let the council know you want this when you make the arrangements.
The council must provide you with an independent advocate in some circumstances. Read more on Independent advocacy.
Paying for home care
If your care needs qualify for council support, you’ll have a separate financial assessment. This works out whether you can get help with care costs by looking at your:
Even if you’re paying for your own care, you can ask the council to arrange care for you. They may charge an arrangement fee for doing this.
If you do qualify for financial support
If you qualify for financial support, the council should tell you how much they think it will cost to meet your needs (in England, this is known as a personal budget). They should also tell you how much they will contribute, and how much you will have to pay. You can let the council manage this money and organise care services for you. Or you can control this money and choose a home care agency yourself.
Even if you’re receiving disability benefits, it’s still worth getting a care needs assessment from your local council. Some parts of these benefits can be counted as income in the council’s financial assessment, but you could use any leftover money to pay for extra services.
When choosing a home care agency, you may want to check:
their ‘statement of purpose’, which includes their aims and objectives, who their service is for and the type of services they provide
what policies and procedures they have in place to protect you and their staff
whether their staff have Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. This shows if they have a criminal record or any police cautions that would make them unsuitable for home care work. For more information, visit the DBS Helpline for England and Wales, or MyGov.Scot for Scotland.
Once you’ve chosen a home care agency, they must carry out an assessment and work with you to produce a care plan. This should match with the council’s care needs assessment if you’ve had one.
They should also give you:
a written contract
a clear price list, with details of what’s included in the basic charge and any extras
information about how to end the contract, if necessary
a copy of their complaints procedure.
They should keep you informed about any issues related to your care.
The agency staff must keep a written record of all the care they provide, including medication they give you, changes in your health or any accidents. You should be able to see these records if you want to – ask the agency how you can do this.
You may be asked to sign timesheets. Make sure the time has been recorded accurately, and don’t sign any timesheets in advance or you may be charged for care you haven’t received. You should receive an invoice charging you for the amount of care you’ve had in the previous month.
Many home care agencies use an electronic monitoring system, which records when care staff enter and leave your home. The care worker may need to use your phone for this, but you won’t be charged for the calls.
If you’re unhappy with your home care agency
If something goes wrong – for example, your care is rushed or the care worker is late or doesn’t turn up – first try to raise your concerns. You can do this with adult social services if your care was organised by the council, or the manager of the agency.