Home care

Using a private agency for home care

What to consider

If you set up a service with a private agency, it is a contract between you and the agency and therefore your responsibility to make sure that the agency can provide the type of service you want and is qualified to do so. If you have any problems with the care or help you receive you will need to take this up with the agency yourself.

There are a number of questions you may want to ask when buying your own care: 

Price

The price for each hour of care you receive will vary depending on what the carer is doing. Personal services such as washing and dressing usually cost more than domestic tasks such as cleaning and shopping. Ask for a price list. Check whether the price you are quoted includes VAT.

Contract

Agencies will have a standard contract that includes what you and the agency expect of each other. Before you sign, make sure you understand everything. If in doubt, get advice from the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Quality

All agencies that provide personal care for people in their own homes must be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who carry out inspections of each agency's services and will include all the necessary checks that the service is properly run. These inspection reports are available online. 

CQC registered providers work to standards set out in a booklet called "What standards you have a right to expect from the regulation of agencies that provide care in your own home" available on the CQC website.

Health and safety, training and confidentiality

Agency staff should have a basic understanding of health and safety and be trained in safe moving and handling. Ask what training is given. You personal information must remain confidential and you can ask how it is stored and what information is held about you.

Working with agency staff

You can expect tasks to be completed to a reasonable standard in the time agreed. You can request a person of the same gender as you to help you with intimate personal care like having a bath. You can also request someone who speaks your language or who has an understanding of your culture or religion. Agencies should have equal opportunities policies in place.

Insurance

The agency must have third party insurance so that you can claim if a member of staff is negligent. Ask to see a copy of the agency's insurance cover before you book a service or sign a contract.

Agencies may be registered voluntarily with the UK Home Care Association. This association has developed a code of practice for all member agencies.