Home care services can be provided by a range of organisations or even private individuals. 

Your relative has a number of different options if they require home care services. Broadly, these are:

Home care agencies: most home care agencies manage the entire care service for your relative and will employ the careworkers. There are some home care agencies which may act solely as an employment agency specialising in introducing careworkers to be employed by you or your relative.
Non-profit organisations: charities such as the Royal Voluntary Service, Age UK or housing associations. Care services may cost less than through a private agency, although this isn't always the case.
Private individuals: your relative can employ one or more individuals to help with various aspects of care. For more information, see Employing private individuals.
Family/friends/neighbours: it might be possible for you or another family member to help with some of your relative’s personal care, or you may be doing this already. It might be possible to work out a family rota.

How home care is organised

If your relative becomes eligible for care from the local authority following their needs and financial assessments, they will be given a personal budget which states the cost to the local authority of meeting the assessed needs. Your relative will then have two options for how his or her care is organised:

  • They can ask the local authority to organise the care on their behalf (but they will still have a right of choice as to who the local authority employs). The majority of local authority care is contracted out to independent, commercial care agencies.
  • Or your relative can choose to accept the personal budget for social care that should be offered to them in the form of a direct payment. A direct payment will give your relative a greater choice over who looks after them; they can choose to use it to arrange employees from a care agency or to recruit their own personal assistant. For more information on this subject, see Personal budgets and direct payments.

If your relative is self-funding, any of the above options are available to them.

Whatever your relative’s financial position, their care choices might be limited by what’s available in their area.

There may also be a third option. In this case a third party (which could be a home care agency) manages the personal budget on your relative’s behalf. This is called an individual service fund.

In Northern Ireland, domiciliary care is free to all who have been assessed by their local authority as needing it. This is regardless of their personal circumstances – so no financial assessment is necessary.

In Scotland, personal care is free to those aged over 65 who have been assessed by their local authority as needing it. This is regardless of their personal circumstances – so no financial assessment is necessary. However, charges still apply to non-personal care services, such as day care, meals and alarms. The Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 provides a range of new options about how individuals can choose to receive social care services in Scotland, for more information see: www.selfdirectedsupportscotland.org.uk  

More information

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