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Monday, 27 June 2011

Employing a professional carer or personal assistant

If you are looking for a care worker or personal assistant to help you live independently at home, you may get one through your local social services department or a home care agency, or you may choose to employ someone directly.

What a professional carer can do for you

Professional carers have a variety of skills - some have nursing and first aid qualifications and others may be home helps or personal assistants. Some examples of the type of tasks a carer might help with are:

  • cooking and cleaning
  • help with personal care like washing and using the toilet
  • driving or help with getting around
  • medical tasks like giving injections or changing a catheter
  • shopping, banking and paying bills

Your options for professional home care

There are three basic arrangements for getting a professional carer.

You may have one provided directly by your local social services department, in which case everything is arranged for you. 

You may ask a care agency to find you a suitable carer. This means you have to find and pay the care agency, but you do not take on any responsibilities as an employer because the carer works for the agency.

You may also employ a carer directly. This option gives you more choice and control over who cares for you and what tasks they do, but it also means you have legal responsibilities as an employer.

Getting started - help from your local authority

The first step towards getting the care you need is usually a health and social care assessment with the social services department of your local council. At the assessment, a specialist - usually an occupational therapist - will discuss your needs with you so that the right support can be provided.

If the council agrees that you need care at home, you can usually receive direct payments. This means you can arrange and pay for your own care services instead of having them provided by the council.

Once you know how much your direct payments will be, you can work out how much to pay a carer and how many hours a week you would like them to work.

Your direct payments should meet your care needs, but if you want to use a more expensive care service or pay for extra hours, you can top them up yourself. 

Writing a job description

Think about exactly what help you need before you employ someone or sign a contract with an agency. It may be helpful to think about a typical day for you, and write a job description for your carer. This should include:

  • a list of all the tasks you may need help with
  • any particular skills or qualifications your care worker must have - for example, a nursing qualification or a full driving licence
  • an estimate of the number of hours and days you will need the person to work

A detailed job description can help home care agencies select a suitable carer for you.

If you are looking to employ a carer yourself, a job description will help people who are interested in applying to get a clear understanding of what the job involves. 

Finding a carer through a home care agency

All home care agencies in England are regulated and inspected regularly by the Care Quality Commission. This guarantees certain minimum standards of service. Home care agencies must also conduct police checks on all employees who will be working with disabled people. 

The websites of the Care Quality Commission and the United Kingdom Home Care Association both allow you to search for a home care agency in your local area. The Care Quality Commission website also contains inspection reports on individual home care agencies. 

Finding a carer yourself

Advertising the job

You can place job advertisements in your local Jobcentre for free. Local shops, supermarkets and voluntary organisations may also have noticeboards where you can place job advertisements. 

Job advertisements should be brief and state:

  • the type of work involved
  • working hours
  • rate of pay
  • your contact details
  • the general area in which you live

For safety reasons, its best to give a mobile phone number or box number in your advertisement, rather than your address or home phone number. 

Job interviews

Once you have received any job applications, select the people you would like to interview for the job. You can ask a friend or relative to attend the interviews, especially if they are taking place in your own home. 

Before the interviews, you should prepare a list of questions that cover the key aspects of the job.

References and police checks

When you have decided who to offer the job to, you are responsible for checking that they are suitable. You should always ask for - and check - at least two references, including one from someone they have cared for previously. 

Individual employers do not have to request a police check on any potential employee but you may still want to do this. You will need to ask the social services department of your local council or a local voluntary organisation to make the request for information to the Criminal Records Bureau on your behalf. 

Support from disability organisations

Some disability organisations and charities may be able to help with the process of employing a carer. The National Centre for Independent Living website contains a guide to employing a personal assistant, which you may find useful.

Your responsibilities if you employ a carer directly

When you employ a carer directly, you have certain responsibilities as an employer, including dealing with tax and insurance. Meeting these is not difficult, and you can get help from social services with paperwork if you need it.

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