Guidance on How to Choose a Care Agency

All Care Providers are not the same!

Councils currently buy mainly on price, many brokers do the same on behalf of their clients.

Being an approved provider to a Council is not a measure of the quality of care the Agency provides.
To become an approved provider is often a mainly paper based exercise – quite a lot of paper. Copies of historic accounts, copies of policies and procedures, a multitude of contract terms to agree to and of course price!

The receipt of any service is a personal experience – care is very personal by it’s nature.

All of the following are variables

  • Staff reliability
  • Initial Staff Training – induction
  • Ongoing Staff Training
  • Staff Development – NVQ’s
  • Staff attitudes
  • Support provided to Clients
  • Support provide to staff
  • Support provided to relatives
  • Ethics
  • Morals
  • Flexibility
  • Communication skills
  • Professionalism
  • Staff Supervision
  • Staff Spot Checks – no prior warning
  • Smart Uniforms
  • Well equipped staff
  • Knowledgeable staff
  • Reliable Staff
  • Caring staff

Web sites listing care agencies will be of little benefit as much of the content will have been provided by the Care Agency. The CQC web site lists all agencies that are legally registered to provide care, with a report that may be several years out of date and provides a snapshot view, often the information has been gathered over a very short period of time, possibly a few days.

A better view can be gained by contacting your District Nurses often via your GP, they work alongside local care agencies on a regular basis. They may not be prepared to make a recommendation ( many will), ask them a direct question “if you needed care which agency would you use”. Contact the Commissioning team at the NHS continuing care office or your local hospice care commissioner, these people are usually close to the coal face and often will make a recommendations.

The most powerful source is recommendation which is where the majority of our private Clients come from, as we don’t do any marketing other than this web page.

Be prepared to ask (there is little point asking social services as they will send you a list of agencies and will not make recommendations, you may find that some agencies on the list are “red lighted” by the Council which means although the agency is approved to the Council, the Council themselves will not currently use that agency as there are problems. Whatever social group you belong to, ask  friends, relatives, neighbours etc, you will find people who have experience of home care in the area you need it.

You can not really judge any service until after you have used it on a regular basis, which is why recommendations are the most valuable source of information.

Capacity to provide care is a chicken and egg situation, if you have spare capacity carers won’t be getting the hours they need to maintain their income ( most private care agencies employ carers based on zero hours contracts) and if Clients needs exceed standard capacity everyone becomes stretched. The more specific a new Client is about the times of visits the harder it is likely to be to accommodate them, particularly if they require a visit between 7am and 9am as these are premium slots. We explain to prospective Clients that we may not be able to meet their required times now, but we will keep them under review and move them as slots become available over a period of time.
In care provision the floor is always moving and things can change very quickly.

Other considerations are local traffic conditions and parking. If the Client lives in an area that is jammed solid at rush hour it will be harder to find an agency to attend during the rush hour due to the amount of travel time required. Equally if the Client lives in an area with no parking it becomes harder for carers. We understand and fully recognise that Clients need to be at the centre of our planning but also we need to appreciate that carers are people that care passionately about Clients but they need to pay their bills as well.