Someone very wise once said “All introduction agencies are not made equal” We would wholeheartedly agree. Home care assistance in the UK is facing tremendous challenges and changes with new public and private sector models of care appearing all the time.
Carers feel underpaid and undervalued, despite a chronic and acute shortage in capacity. Brexit followed by the Covid pandemic has also resulted in a significant shock to the care home sector making live in care a safer, more attractive option than ever before.
In recent years a new model of care delivery has appeared on line, to rival the conventional high street care agency. Introduction Agencies are often more technology driven than most care agencies in the uk. Each Introduction Agency has it’s own procedures and quality systems and some are regulated by the Care Quality Commission or CQC (think OFSTED for schools) whilst others have chosen not to be regulated. This article explores both of these models and will help you to decide which might best suit your care needs.
With so many agencies and sometimes very little time, how should you decide?
Care agencies employ, train, and vet their carers. Office-based care coordinators rotate the caregivers every day to ensure that everyone gets a live in carer or a care visit as close as possible to the scheduled arrival time. They are also often CQC regulated which means there is an independent body that publicly audits and rates their quality. So what’s the problem?
As anyone experienced in receiving home care will tell you, inconsistency and a lack of control are the main issues. When the agency employs insufficient carers, or when carers are on leave or perhaps call in sick, problems can arise. This may cause punctuality issues with (well-meaning but) different faces appearing each day or week. Those with cognitive health difficulties often struggle with unfamiliarity in their visiting or live in carers. All of this can put a strain on the client-agency relationship. The care agency coordinators must constantly balance demand with capacity, (especially as one of the home care agency model’s key principles is that a carer (rather than the same carer) will be provided if possible).
If you are in receipt of help towards the funding of your live in or visiting care from either a local Council or the NHS through Continuing Healthcare, you can opt for either Managed Care or Direct Payments.
Managed Care means that a care agency with sufficient carer capacity will be chosen for you by the funding authority. Whilst you will not have to search for your care, you will not have any choice in the nominated care agency, nor the carers that provide the services.
Direct Payments is an alternative to Managed Care, in that you can choose the care agency, introduction agency or even an independent, private carer that you may employ or that may be self employed. This provides you with more control, flexibility and a direct relationship with your care giver. The funding authority will send the funds to you, which you in turn, can use to pay your carer or introduction agency (depending upon their payment system).
Introduction Agencies are different. They provide families seeking care with the opportunity to select their own independent, private, self-employed carer.
Different Introduction Agencies recruit carers onto their platform with varying quality standards which may or may not take into account the carer’s personality. They all look for different skill levels, years of experience and whilst some conduct a detailed and more frequent background check, others may not to the same degree, so it is worth checking out how they work before discussing your needs with them before you decide if you would like them to present their available carers to you.
Having presented carer profiles to you, you will usually be given the opportunity of meeting them on a video call. This gives you both the opportunity to assess their suitability in every way. Some Introduction Agencies may insist on a finder’s fee in advance, whilst others may invoice you weekly for their finder’s fee. Some may additionally invoice you for the care provided by your chosen carer whilst others may simply ask you to pay your carer directly each week. If this sounds a little confusing, thankfully, a small number of Introduction Agencies have simplified the payment process and will offer you their carer matching service for free, as they only charge their carer a small administration fee, but only when they are working.
Some Introduction Agencies have a price list and determine the level of income their carer will receive per hour (visiting) or per day (live in) whilst others allow the carer to decide, having met the family on a video call to understand the nature and intensity of the care required, to then set their rate per individual client.
The ability to choose your own vetted independent, private carer addresses the problem of inconsistency and a lack of control, but what happens when the caregiver is themselves unwell or needs a break?
More often than not, you will have to go back to the Introduction Agency and restart the process whereby they will try to find you carers at short notice so that you can have a video call with them. As their carers are self employed, Introduction Agencies rarely make promises to always cover any gaps in care delivery. Please do take the time to understand what their respective policies are towards planned and unplanned carer absence so that you can choose the Agency best suited to your own, unique family situation.
Introduction Agencies are able to attract private carers more easily than Care Agencies because these self employed carers are more motivated. They have the ability to choose their client and ask for a rate they feel is fair to charge given the care demands. This also makes Introduction Agencies better positioned to provide emergency and respite care.
Carers also have a wider range of employment prospects as a result of the Introduction Agency models of delivery. Some carers choose to be both employed (a greater assurance of a steady income) and self-employed (a more direct, long-term connection with their client). Sometimes, independent carers may be registered with multiple agencies, both care and Introduction.
Whilst Care Agencies are rated by the CQC, Introduction Agencies are unaudited and are therefore not rated. So why are they becoming so popular? They provide more consistency and control and are easier than employing your own private carer in that all the background checks and training should have been verified saving you worry, time and effort. Engaging an Introduction Agency requires you to read through their independent online reviews from other care seekers. It could be argued that the collective voice of the customer carries sufficient weight to help potential clients to decide which Introductory Agency to contact based on google or Trustpilot reviews. If you choose to use an Introductory Agency, you will no doubt be encouraged to leave them a review as they know reviews mean a lot these days.
seakr care professionals join us because they like to choose their client and their families, the type of care they provide (day visits, night-time care or 24/7 live in care), the nature of their care (companionship through to dementia care, end of life, bedbound or spinal injury care), the fee they feel is fair to charge and when they take their holidays, always in agreement with their client.
We call this Care Freedom. Because they have the freedom to choose all of these things, we have no shortage of carers applying to join our 1000-strong community across England, Scotland and Wales. However, their personality and background check as well as their technical skills are important to us so we reject between 75% and 82% of all applications each year.
The care seakr app brings only approved seakr carers into our digital community. Your seakr carer can call on other validated, local seakr carers if they are unwell or need a holiday. They can find another carer who can cover all of their responsibilities until they return until such time as is appropriate. After all, they know you even better than we do so are much better placed to find their cover carer for you. We only charge our carers for their administrative support with no finder’s fees for clients to pay and are here 24/7 by phone to support you and your chosen carer.
Here are some simple questions to ask any care or introductory agency when searching for home care for yourself or a loved one:
Your requirements are unique so try to select an agency that is appropriate for your particular needs and one which you feel you can trust, where fees and contingencies have been discussed openly and in advance with the agency and with your chosen carer.