In Blog

Shelley Guay, Care Manager of Martlets Care (whose profits support the Martlets Hospice), comments on the latest scandal to rock the care industry.

The care industry recently hit the headlines again – for all the wrong reasons.

A care worker was caught slamming the head of a 77-year-old woman with dementia into a chair on secret CCTV installed by her family. The elderly lady’s relatives put a camera in her room at a care home in Birmingham after they found bruises on her, a court heard.

The carer was given a 12-month community order after admitting ill-treating and neglecting the lady. The carer was also dismissed by her employer.

Although the incident occurred in a care home and not in the client’s own home, the case once again highlighted the need for careful research and vigilance when choosing a care provider.

Indeed, choosing a care agency is a difficult task. Sometimes the journey to the point where a decision is made to take on external help is a tough one, due to prolonged illness, the death of a family carer or the slow slide into a condition such as dementia. The loved one concerned may be less than enthusiastic about the idea of having ‘strangers’ in their home, further obfuscating an already complex choice. It is a decision where logic and heartfelt instinct may collide; after all, placing trust in an unknown entity for the care of a loved one is almost by definition an emotional process.

Of course, the safest bet is to rely on personal testimony, either from individuals being looked after by the care agency in question (or their friends or family), or workers at a care agency that you may know. Failing that, ask around your circle of friends, colleagues or school networks, or via social media tools such as Facebook, requesting any tips.

In addition to these routes to a more personal ‘reference’, there are some other factors that you should always consider. Here is a shortlist of some of the key things to look out for when choosing a care agency.

1. Training

This can vary quite widely across the home care industry. Induction courses in some agencies last no more than one day. With others, you may find a four-day induction programme using a proper training company. Also look out for whether there is a requirement for carers to study for an NVQ or other qualification, hold a certain amount of experience before they start work at the agency, or fund their own training.

If the training is done in-house, make sure that someone with hand-on care experience delivers it. Training should cover the delivery of medications and manual handling, among other essentials.

2. Ownership

Check out the ownership of the care agency. For example, a husband and wife team that owns their care agency business outright may be a safer bet than a large franchise business that may or may not take a close interest in its franchise operators once they get underway.

On the other hand, if the husband and wife team had no track record in running a care business prior to setting up the firm you are considering (and it is a relatively new firm) then you may need to think again.

3.    Wages

It may seem obvious, but don’t assume that the fees being charged to a care client is the same as (or sometimes anywhere near) the wages being paid to the carer. As in any other job, if the carer feels undervalued then this can impact on their performance.

The Government’s new National Living Wage became law on 1 April 2016. If a carer is working and aged 25 or over and not in the first year of an apprenticeship, he or she is legally entitled to at least £7.20 per hour. Bear in mind that this a minimum rate that acts as an average for the country as a whole: it does not necessarily reflect the living costs in your area. Some neighbourhoods promote adherence to their own ‘living wage’, which may be higher than the national one. For example, the Brighton and Hove Living Wage campaign promotes the need for a higher minimum wage to account for the cost of living in the area.

4. Certification

There are many different accreditations and certifications that care agencies can hold. These cover a multitude of areas, such as training, employee supervision, induction, competency and staff benefits. You will usually find these certifications advertised on the providers’ websites.

‘Employer of the Year’ awards and the like, often run by local newspapers, are also worth noting.

5. Regulator

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) aims to rate all adult social care services across England as either outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate so that people can be clear about what the regulator thinks of the care delivered and how the business is run. A special-measures regime has also been introduced.

All you need to do is enter the provider you have in mind in the search box and you will discover the CQC’s viewpoint. See