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What are your options for homecare for elderly parents?

Posted on 07/07/2015

As your parents start to get older, there may come a time when you have to think about getting them some extra help around the house. This could be in a supportive capacity, helping them with shopping, cooking or household chores, or you might need a full- or part-time carer to help with personal care tasks.

There are many benefits to homecare (see our 5 reasons to choose homecare article), especially as it helps your parents to remain independent and in their own home. You should speak to your local authority to get your parents’ needs assessed, as they may be eligible for funding, otherwise you will have to look at other ways of funding their care needs.

Whether you are paying for yourself, or your parents are eligible for a Personal Budget, there are three key routes that you can take to get a paid carer or support worker in their home. Here we take a look at all three and the pros and cons of each route.

Use an agency

There are plenty of homecare agencies and you should have no trouble locating these in your local area. You can meet with the agency workers and managers to find out more about the company and the services that they offer, so that you are happy they are right for your parents. You pay the agency directly and they provide a carer to your requirements. It is a straightforward option, as you don’t have to do a lot yourself once you have selected an agency.

Pros

You don’t have to handle any aspect of finances, except for paying the agency. They deal with payments to the carer(s) and their taxes, pensions, employment rights, etc. They are also responsible for ensuring that the people they hire are DBS-checked and have the right insurance. They are also responsible for making sure that someone turns up every time they should, regardless of staff illness and holidays.

Cons

With an agency, you can’t guarantee that you will be able to choose your individual carer. It could be that a team of carers work on a rota to visit your parents, so they might not see them same person every time. Also, agencies have a lot of clients to fit in, which can mean that the time they spend with your parents is limited – they will have to do their tasks and move on, which can feel rushed and impersonal. Using an agency is also more expensive, as an agency has certain overheads to cover, as well as making a profit and paying the carer.

Contract with a self-employed paid carer 

There are many carers out there who work for themselves. They can be harder to find, but take a look in local papers and shop windows for people advertising for clients. Word of mouth is also important, so ask around. A self-employed paid carer will have set costs and they will manage their own finances, taxes and so on. They should also be DBS checked and be able to provide you with references. You might want to consider getting insurance however, as although the carer should have their own, it covers you in case there is an accident while they are in your parents’ home. A self-employed paid carer will have other clients – if you need someone to do a lot of hours and it is their only job, HMRC might deem that they are in fact employed by you (you do not get to choose – HMRC has criteria for employment and self-employment that it makes a decision based on).

Pros

The carer will work for you and together you will agree terms of the contract. You can ask for specific times of day, request that they spend a minimum amount of time with your parents and agree exactly what tasks they will undertake. A self-employed paid carer is responsible for themselves, so they will be able to tell you exactly what they can and can’t do, what qualifications they have and so on, so you can make an informed decision on who to work with. Your parents will see the same person every day, enabling them to build up trust.

Cons

As they are self-employed as a paid carer and unlikely to be registered with CQC, there are certain things that they can’t do – and that includes providing cover when they are ill or on holiday. You would need to make your own alternative arrangements in these situations. Also, you will probably pay a little more for someone self-employed, as they need to set their budget to include allowances for taking holiday, admin time and travel.

Employing your own paid carer

This final option means that you would take on the role of employer to a paid carer and all the responsibilities that come with that. You will have to ensure that they have the right amount of holiday, sick pay and that their taxes are paid. You may also need to provide them with a pension. You can use a payroll service to deal with a lot of this though. There is a more detailed guide to employing a paid carer on the website and this looks at all of your legal responsibilities. Don’t be put off though, as it is not as complex as it may sound and there are some strong positive aspects.

Pros

As you are the employer, you would draw up the contract and get to say exactly what you expect of your carer, what hours they would work and when they would work, which gives you the most flexibility and control out of all the options here. You also get to set your own hourly rate and it can be the cheapest option for you. There is a continuity of care and you can interview as many applicants as you want until you find the right person. You can also build in a probationary or trial period to ensure that it is the right person for the role.

Cons

As mentioned above, you do have to take on the employer role and everything that comes with it. You would have to arrange any training you want them to have, ensure they have holiday, maternity, sick and other statutory pay, as well as a workplace pension. It would be up to you to run a DBS check on them and take out relevant insurance. If your parents’ situation changes and they need to move into residential care, then you might have redundancy pay to consider (after two years’ employment). 

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