If you're the main carer for someone, there may be times when you need some additional support. If the person you look after has had an assessment from the council, the local authority may be able to meet some or all of the costs of any additional care needed. You should also be offered a carer's assessment by the council to assess whether you as a carer need any support.
If you're not entitled to help from the council, or you've exceeded the level of personal budget which the council has agreed to pay for care, you may wish to pay for private care.
Many people also decide to use private care so that they can make their own arrangements, or because the council does not provide the type of support they are looking for.
Regardless of the financial circumstances of the person you look after, they may be entitled to state disability benefits which are intended to help meet the costs of support at home.
Employing a personal care assistant
Paying a personal care assistant directly gives you greater control over the kind of care provided. However, you need to be aware that you and/or the person you're looking after will act as their employer, which has certain practical, legal, and financial implications, including:
- recruiting the care worker and checking references
- drawing up a contract of employment and agreeing the hours of work
- paying income tax and national insurance
- arranging insurance cover in case of accidents
- arranging alternative care whilst the personal assistant is on holiday, unwell, or if they resign
ACAS provide information on the employment rights of personal care assistants.
Home care agencies
You can also opt to book care through a home care agency. Using an agency may mean you have less control over who the carer is, but it has the advantage of taking care of most of the tax paperwork and payroll. They'll also arrange cover if your usual assistant is not available.
Home care agencies will provide trained care workers, or when required, nurses who can come to your home to assist with tasks such as:
- shopping, cleaning, laundry, and ironing
- personal care such as washing, bathing, dressing, going to the toilet, and managing any problems with incontinence
- meal preparation
- taking medication
- treating ongoing health problems which require specialist nursing input (including receiving injections, changing dressings, and bandages)
- going out in the local community
Agencies will charge different amounts depending on the type of care required. Personal care and nursing care is sometimes more expensive than hiring help to simply clean your home because the carers require additional training.
Some agencies will offer specialist support for people with particular needs, such as people with learning disabilities, dementia, mental health problems, or people with brain injuries.
Depending on your needs and your financial situation, you can choose to have a care worker visit you once or twice per week, or one or more times per day. You can even arrange for someone to be with you 24 hours a day.
Choosing a home care agency
Using the Care Quality Commission website
Home care agencies are run by a variety of organisations, including private firms, charities, voluntary sector organisations, and local councils. They are registered and regulated in England by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC visits them regularly, and writes a report about the agency which you can read on their website. This report will tell you what the agency does well, and about any areas where they need to improve their standards.
You can use the CQC website to search for home care agencies in your area, to see what types of support they offer, and to see whether they have an up-to-date and good inspection report.
The CQC have produced a leaflet about the standard of care you should expect in your home.
Using the NHS Choices website
The NHS Choices website also allows you to search for home care agencies in your area, to see what other people have said about them, and to rate them yourself based on your experiences.
Other information and advice
You may also find our pages Living Well with Technology, Equipment to Help at Home and Technology for independent living useful if you're looking for gadgets and equipment to help you stay safe at home.
The following websites provide independent advice on all aspects of arranging support in your home:
Independent Age provide two important leaflets: