Home help

If you need help around the home, a good option is to have a care worker come into your home to help you.

Home help from a paid carer costs around £20 an hour, but it varies according to where you live.

Depending on your circumstances, home help may be funded by your local council or you may have to pay yourself.

Types of home help

Help around the home comes in many forms and there are many names used to describe it, including home help, homecare, care attendants, and "carers" (not to be confused with unpaid family or friends who care for you).

Home help can suit you if you need:

  • personal care, such as help with getting washed and dressed
  • housekeeping or domestic work, such as vacuuming, cleaning and doing laundry
  • help with cooking or preparing meals or "meals on wheels"
  • nursing and healthcare
  • companionship

Home help can be very flexible. The same person or agency may be able to provide some or all of these options for the duration of your care:

  • long-term 24-hour care
  • short breaks for an unpaid family carer
  • emergency care
  • day care
  • sessions ranging from 15-minute visits to 24-hour assistance and everything in between

If you already know what you want, you can search the NHS website for:

Funding homecare

If you believe you might benefit from some help at home, contact your local council's social services department to ask for a needs assessment.

If you're eligible for help at home funded by your local council, your local council may provide or arrange the help themselves.

Alternatively, you can arrange your own care, funded by the council, through direct payments or a personal budget.

If you choose direct payments or a personal budget, or you aren't eligible for council funding and want to get care privately, you can arrange it in several different ways:

  • using a homecare agency
  • hiring a personal assistant
  • getting homecare from a charity, such as Age UK

Home help agencies

If you use a homecare agency, you or the person looking after you has to find the care agency and pay them.

The agency will provide a service through a trained team of care workers, which means you may not always have the same person visiting your home, although the agency will do its best to take your choices into account.

Homecare agencies can also:

  • take over the burden of being an employer – for example, payroll, training, disciplinary issues and insurance
  • train their homecare workers through national qualifications and service-specific training
  • replace workers when they're ill, on holiday or resign
  • put things right when they go wrong

An agency will want to see you and the person looking after you so they can assess your needs.

This also means you can make a joint decision about the right type of care and support.

Find out more from the UK Homecare Association.

How much does a homecare agency cost?

Using a homecare agency can be expensive. The agency will charge a fee on top of the payment made to the care worker to cover their running costs and profits.

You normally have to make a regular payment to the agency, which includes both the worker's earnings and the agency's fee.

Questions to ask when using a homecare agency

Before deciding to go ahead with an agency, you should ask questions about the fee and what it covers.

These include:

  • does the agency check references?
  • what training and supervision do they provide?
  • what's their complaints policy?
  • who's responsible for insurance?
  • is there any out-of-hours or emergency contact if needed?
  • will they be able to provide staff if your own care worker is ill or away? If an agency is contracted to provide care every day, it must do that

Hiring a personal assistant

Instead of using an agency, you can hire a personal assistant to act as a homecare worker for you.

Personal assistants can offer you all that you'll get from an agency worker, but you'll also get continuity, familiarity and an ongoing relationship with an assistant.

But if you employ a personal assistant, you have the legal responsibility of an employer. This includes arranging cover for their illness and holidays.

Which? Later Life Care has advice on employing private individuals.

Get more information on becoming an employer

Home help from charities

Charities such as Age UK and Carers Trust can provide home help.

Carers Trust also supports carers by giving them a break from their caring responsibilities through homecare services.

Marie Curie Nurses can provide practical and emotional support for people near the end of their lives in their own homes.

Complaining about homecare

You have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of homecare.

It's a good idea to ask a homecare agency or charity about their complaints policy before you start to use their carers.

Read more about how to make a complaint about the homecare you or someone else is receiving.

If you are finding it difficult to make a complaint, find out how an advocate can help you.

Media last reviewed: 30/09/2018

Media review due: 30/09/2021

Page last reviewed: 12/01/2018
Next review due: 12/01/2021