Someone once said “All introduction agencies are not made equal” Okay, so we changed the phrase a bit and if you can remember it, you must be as old as we are!
Home care in the UK is a huge market in a lot of pain. Frankly, carers feel undervalued and underpaid. Meanwhile, changing demographics suggest that there will be no let-up in demand for them anytime soon. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting level of deaths in care homes, also suggests that 24/7, live-in, home care will become even more popular.
Recent years have brought a new breed of care company to rival conventional, high street care agencies. Introduction Agencies are often more technology-focused and connect the families of vulnerable individuals with either employed or self-employed carers. Some are Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated, whilst others have their own, in-house quality and compliance systems.
With so much choice and sometimes so little time to make a decision, how does one choose?
Care agencies (CA) vet, train and employ their carers. (Usually) office-based Care Co-ordinators rota (and re-rota) the carers each day, to try to ensure that all clients receive a visit as closely as possible to the desired arrival time. They are often CQC regulated. Sounds good, so what’s the problem?
Issues can arise when there are insufficient carer numbers and, or when carers call in sick. This can cause logistical challenges around the actual delivery of care and put a strain on the client-agency relationship. The care agency co-ordinators must constantly juggle demand with resources, (especially as a key mantra of the care agency model is that a carer will always be provided).
Having a different carer arriving at your home every day can be confusing and upsetting. How would you feel about a stranger entering your home? Would you feel comfortable allowing someone that you don’t know to help you with often quite personal tasks? For dementia sufferers, a lack of consistency and punctuality can be particularly difficult and cause considerable anxiety.
Some CAs have taken their models online, to become the Purple Bricks of care. Unfortunately, this use of technology doesn’t solve the problem of inconsistent care.
Introduction Agencies (IA) are different. They provide families seeking care with the opportunity to select their own independent, self-employed carer.
This individual will provide the care on the terms agreed between them and the care recipient. Together they agree on hours of work and payment and the carers themselves are responsible for the quality of care they deliver, rather than the IA. This deals with the problem of inconsistency, but what happens when the usual carer is themselves ill or needs a break?
At seakr, we provide an app which enables all carers to become part of a digital community. If they are unwell or wish to take a holiday, they can call on other vetted, local carers to help. They can find one person who can step in to cover all of their work until they return. If appropriate, the new carer can be introduced to the care recipient in advance to allay fears.
Introduction Agencies Providing Care Freedom
In our experience, as IAs are less well known, both publicly funded and privately funded clients often begin with care agencies. People generally begin to explore IAs if the delivery of care falls short of the expectations.
As Council Personal Budgets and NHS Continuing Care Budgets often allow care seekers to work with IAs, we hope to see a shift towards individuals and families using IAs to choose their own, dedicated carer(s). We see this as a more personalised solution.
Carers themselves also have a far greater choice of work opportunities as a result of the IA models of delivery. Some choose to be both employed (greater guarantee of a steady income) and self-employed (a direct, more sustainable relationship with their client and not necessarily an increase in their hourly rate) in parallel.
When in need of home care either for yourself or a loved one, here are some straightforward questions you should ask of any CA or IA:
Consistency of Care Provision
As every individual’s needs are unique, you need to find the CA or IA which best meets your requirements and gains your trust. Our only advice is that consistency of care provision helps the carer provider, care recipient and their family to build a closer bond and to feel relaxed and comfortable with the care arrangements.