Should I Employ a Private Carer or Use A Care Agency?
Chris Williams
January 19, 2023

Introduction

Arranging care for a loved one is not easy. It can feel very overwhelming. Not only are you juggling the emotional fall out of accepting your loved one needs more support than you can provide, but you’re faced with a burgeoning to-do list, at the top of which is likely to be choosing a suitable carer. 

Here in the UK, there are two main options when it comes to choosing a carer. You can either find and employ a private carer yourself or you can go through a care agency. There are pros and cons to both and often these will differ depending on your loved one’s personal circumstances. This blog will explore the pros and cons of employing a private carer and highlight some of the benefits of using a care agency.

What is a private carer?

A private carer, sometimes referred to as a personal care assistant, is an individual that is hired to provide personal care or support to others. If the carer only works for you and your relative is their only client, you will need to employ them and this then involves taking on a whole host of legal, financial and practical responsibilities.

What is a care agency?

A care agency employs a team of carers who after being matched with clients, provide a range of support for them including personal care tasks, domestic chores, companionship and medication administration. All the legal, financial and practical responsibilities associated with employing the carers are handled by the agency itself.

The pros of hiring a private carer

There are some benefits to hiring a private carer.

  1. You’re able to speak to all of the carer candidates and you can potentially select someone you already know. You know your loved one. You understand their likes and dislikes, their idiosyncrasies and their unique traits. By hiring a private carer directly, you’ll be able to personally speak with all of the carers that apply to work with your loved one.
  1. You may be able to exercise more influence over the care your loved one receives. When you hire a private carer you will speak to them more regularly than you would with a carer employed by a care agency. You’ll be able to speak to them about your loved one’s specific care requirements, establish the tasks they’ll need to undertake, as well as address and iron out any issues with them as and when they arise. Such  visibility over and influence over your loved one’s care may offer you a greater sense of reassurance.

  2. You may save money on agency fees. Care agencies often charge fees to cover the cost of assessing carers and matching them with clients, undertaking client and care reviews, insurance and training and security checks. By hiring a private carer, you’ll avoid having to pay these fees. 

However, before you decide to employ a carer yourself, there are several things you need to consider.

The pitfalls of hiring a private carer

1. You’ll face fresh legal, financial and practical obligations 

Sourcing and hiring a private carer, turns you into an employer and brings with it many new responsibilities and a lengthy to-do list, including:

  • registering as an employer
  • writing a job description
  • advertising the position
  • interviewing candidates
  • vetting candidates (including references, right to work and DBS checks)
  • operating PAYE, and deducting income tax and national insurance, if the employee earns over a specified amount
  • paying the carer’s wages
  • organising rest breaks
  • completing workplace risk assessments
  • organising training 
  • establishing working hours
  • sorting out holiday pay, sick pay and maternity pay 
  • drawing up a contract and detailing notice and dismissal periods
  • arranging employer’s liability insurance
  • establishing a pension scheme for your carer (if they’re aged between 22 and state pension age and earn more than £192 a week)
  • checking you’re compliant with discrimination law as outlined in the Equalities Act 2010 and are providing your employee with ongoing protection against discrimination.
  • dealing with any disciplinary issues such as suspension, dismissal or complaints.

Becoming an employer is not easy. Employment law can be complicated and without some prior knowledge or previous experience in an HR role, you may find you’re out of your depth. You can of course seek the advice of an HR consultant to help you deliver on your responsibilities, but this will cost money. 

Staying on top of your responsibilities as an employer is also time-consuming and admin heavy. You could find yourself wading through a mountain of paperwork and continuously fire-fighting issues that arise, which may impact your day-job or eat into your family time.

When you go through a care agency, all of these responsibilities are covered. The agency will take care of all employment related tasks from recruiting and vetting candidates through to operating PAYE, paying the carer’s wages and drawing up their contract. They’ll also look after any ongoing HR related issues. 

2. Your carer will have less time to complete care plans and risk assessments

Care plans are important documents that detail your loved one’s assessed individual needs, the support that will be provided to meet these needs, how this support will be delivered and who will deliver it. This document is crucial as it outlines the level of support your loved one will require and ensures that it is aligned to your loved one’s preferences.

The care provider is responsible for drawing up a client’s care plan and risk assessments, in consultation with their client and family members. When going through an agency, the agency will take care of producing this plan and will ensure that it’s reviewed and adapted regularly so that it continues to serve the needs of their client.

When hiring a private carer the responsibility for completing a client’s care plan and risk assessments, lies with the carer themselves. However most private carers are so busy caring for their client and seeing that their needs are met, they have little time to complete, let alone regularly review and revise the care plan. This can compromise the quality of care the client receives.

You may find, if you opt for a private carer, that whilst your loved one’s basic care needs are being met, they’re bespoke needs are not, because their care plan (if there is one in place at all) does not outline these needs in any specific detail.

3. There will be fewer quality control checks 
Staff training

Currently, in the UK, there is no one accredited training course that a carer needs to complete in order to be fully qualified. As such, even if the carer you employ states they have received some training, you can never really be sure whether this training is of an adequate standard and therefore whether your carer is really fully equipped to care for your loved one. 

Most care agencies on the other hand will provide their staff with a variety of training. This may include courses such as moving and handling training, food hygiene, first aid, infection control and medication awareness. Tiggo Care provides its carers with an extensive and bespoke e-learning training programme, regardless of how long they have worked in the care industry. This ensures all our staff are equipped to deliver care to our high standards. 

Not only is regular staff training provided by care agencies, but because agencies are regulated and inspected by the Care Quality Commission, their training content and delivery is scrutinised, ensuring that any lapses in training or any queries around the quality of training are picked up and addressed.

Performance evaluation 

If you choose to employ a private carer, unless you have the time to regularly monitor and evaluate their work, you never really know whether they are providing your loved one with high-quality care. You are simply relying on your relative’s feedback as well as assurances from your carer.

Care agencies often have a team of field care professionals whose job it is to conduct onsite visits and spot checks. They’ll objectively observe and monitor the performance of a carer, note down areas of improvement and flag up any training needs. 

At Tiggo Care, following an onsite visit, our field care supervisors will discuss their observations with the carer and map out any upcoming training requirements, ensuring that their professional development is personalised, useful and relevant to their needs. 

We will also collate all the observations from our field care supervisor team in order to create a wider staff training programme, covering areas that all carers need support with. These may include nutrition, incontinence or mental capacity training, which we will then roll out to staff either in groups or 1 to 1.

Having strong and effective quality control measures is so important when delivering high-quality care. It’s something that care agencies prioritise and have the capacity to ensure. That the CQC will regularly inspect and report on the effectiveness of these quality control measures means that agencies must also constantly review and update the measures they have in place to ensure they remain robust.

4. You’ll be responsible for funding any training and PPE equipment

As an employer you’re responsible for ensuring that your loved one’s carer receives all the training they need as well as upholding your health and safety obligations by purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for them to use. Funding regular training and the replacement of equipment is not cheap and is something you’ll need to budget for if you decide to employ a private carer.

If you choose to go through a care agency, all staff training and provision of equipment is covered by the agency. You can relax, safe in the knowledge that your loved one is being cared for by fully trained and properly equipped care professionals.

5. You risk poorer continuity of care

One of the biggest drawbacks of hiring a private carer is the dilemma you’ll find yourself in if they fall ill or are absent. Put simply, because you won’t have a pool of well-trained staff to draw on,  you’ll have no relief or emergency back up cover to put in place. You’ll either have to step in and care for your relative yourself or leave your loved one to fend for themselves, until you can employ someone new. And starting this recruitment and onboarding process all over again is no mean feat. It will consume yet more of your time and energy and could also leave you out of pocket, as background checks on carers cost around £50.00. 

When you go through a care agency, should your loved one’s assigned carer fall ill,  a suitable relief carer will be dispatched immediately. You won’t need to take on the stress of recruiting and onboarding someone new and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that this new carer is vetted, adequately upskilled and capable of caring for your loved one.

6. The care your loved one receives won’t be regulated by the Care Quality Commission

All companies that provide personal care are required to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Once registered the care provider is regularly inspected by the CQC to ensure they are delivering a safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led service. Individuals that you hire to support a loved one are not required to register with the CQC and so there is no one to hold them accountable for the service they deliver.  

Conclusion

Whilst the prospect of saving money on sourcing care provision may hold great appeal, especially in today’s challenging economic climate, before taking the plunge and hiring a private carer, it’s important to know what’s really involved in doing so.

Despite the benefits that come with hiring a private carer, which include having more control and influence over your loved one’s care and avoiding agency fees, there are some significant drawbacks that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Employing a private carer can be stressful, time-consuming and costly and with no easy way of finding cover for them if they’re ill or away, you could find that your loved one’s quality of care is compromised.

Care agencies are there to make your life easier and bring you and your loved one peace of mind. Their sole purpose is to provide your loved one with exceptional and bespoke care. They’ll work closely with you to ensure that your loved one feels safe and cared for and can enjoy an independent and happy life at home.

Want to know more about Tiggo Care?

If you’re interested in finding out how Tiggo Care can support you and your loved one as you embark on your care journey, please do get in touch. 

We’d love to hear from you.

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