If your relative is finding it difficult to manage day-to-day chores such as shopping, housework and gardening, it might be time to consider home help or other domestic services that can offer assistance.

Getting domestic or household help can enable your relative to stay in their home for longer, and might prevent or delay the need to move into sheltered housing or other accommodation. Following the needs assessment, local authorities rarely finance home help services, although some help might be provided as part of your relative’s care plan.

On this page you can find details on who can provide home help, as well as how to go about contacting them.

1. Consider your relative's needs
2. Local authority support
3. Independent businesses/agencies
4. Non-profit organisations
5. Private individuals
6. Homeshare
7. Finding home help

Consider your relative’s needs

Before choosing a form of home help, sit down with your relative to think about the following:

  • What tasks do they need help with?
  • How many hours a week will they need help for?
  • How often would they like someone to come in?
  • Do they need temporary help (just for a few weeks/months) or a permanent helper?
  • How much are they willing and able to pay?

It might be that your relative needs different people to carry out different specific tasks - someone to clean the house, a handy-person, a gardener to mow the lawn or a dog walker, for example.

Local authority support

Only a few local authorities provide home help services, and these tend to be limited.

To find out which local authority services are available in your relative’s area, enter his or her postcode in our Care services directory and then use the ‘Local authority services’ tab on the resulting page.

Supplying meals: Each local council has its own arrangements to supply meals to people who have no other way of getting them. In a few areas, the service is run by charities such as the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) or Age Concern, on behalf of the council (see Useful organisations and websites). Some councils run their own meals on wheels service, while others use a commercial company to deliver frozen meals and provide a small freezer, microwave or steamer for heating them. 

Most authorities have eligibility criteria for supplying this service. Costs vary and are usually between £3 and £6 a meal, but a number of councils operate a financial assessment.

Independent businesses/agencies

Such businesses provide a wider range of home help and other domestic support services. Check local papers or Yellow Pages to find agencies that offer specific helpers, such as a cleaning agency for housework, and businesses that deliver prepared meals in your relative’s area.

Non-profit organisations

It is worth contacting local branches of charities such as Age UK and the Royal Voluntary Service (see Useful organisations and websites), to ask what they can offer in your area. There will probably be a charge for most services.

Getting appropriate help

Depending on your relative’s needs, you might have to employ several helpers to assist with different tasks. Make sure that each helper sticks to their specific task – the job that they have been hired to do.

Private individuals

Private individuals such as cleaners, gardeners or dog walkers can provide help with specific tasks. Your relative may also privately employ an individual as a personal assistant to look after their needs. See also this page on the Which? website for information on vetting and approving trades people.

It might be possible for you or another family member to help your relative with some tasks.


Homeshare is an international charity helping older people to stay in their homes for longer. It offers a simple way for people to help each other by connecting two people with different sets of needs, both of whom also have something to offer each other:

The householder: who has a home they are willing to share, but who also needs help and support.
The homesharer: who needs accommodation, and is willing to give some help in exchange for somewhere to stay.

Homeshare helps to connect these two people. The householder gets the help, support and security that they need and the homesharer has a rent-free place to call home. Both people and their families benefit from the arrangement, and the costs are very low.

There are currently 11 Homeshare programmes in the UK, most of which are in England, with one in Scotland. Visit the Homeshare website for more information.

Finding home help

It’s worth asking around to see if any friends can recommend anyone. Look in the local newspaper as personal assistants might advertise their services there.

Alternatively, you might want to place your own ‘wanted’ ad for a personal assistant in a newspaper or shop window. Never include your full name, address or postcode. It’s advisable to use a PO box number or advertisement number if you can, so that your personal details aren’t made public.

There is also online job advertising on websites like Universal Jobmatch, which is a government scheme to help employers, including individual employers, advertise their vacancies. You may need to choose the job title carefully. ‘Personal care assistant’ is better than ‘personal assistant’, which is associated with office work.

More information

Page last reviewed: August 2016 
Next review due: March 2018