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Before making a final decision about a home care agency, get as much information as possible so you can compare providers and make sure they meet your requirements.

1. Sit down with your relative and make a list of what they want from a careworker

  • What do they want help with?
  • How often do they want them to visit?
  • What time do they want them to visit?
  • What specific activities do they want them to help with?
  • What’s their budget? How many hours a day/week can they afford help?

2. Make a list of home care agencies in the area that meet your relative’s needs

To find domiciliary care providers in your relative’s area, use our Care services directory where we provide you with contact details and, for services in England, the last inspection date and ratings given by the Care Quality Commission. A link is given to the latest inspection report.

Inspection reports for domiciliary care providers elsewhere in UK can be found at:

If your relative is planning to use the services of a live-in careworker through an introductory agency, note that the regulator in England (the CQC) no longer regulates such providers. Many of them, especially members of the Live-in Care Hub, aim to exceed the standards set out by the CQC.

'I chose this care agency because they say they have experience of dealing with dementia and one of the key things is consistency.' Jo's story

Whether an introductory agency elsewhere in the UK is regulated depends on the legislation in that country and the precise services the agency provides, with each case decided individually.

3. Draw up a shortlist of home care agencies 

Only include those agencies that appear to be able to meet your relative’s needs.

4. Contact the home care agencies on the list 

Arrange to meet with staff, preferably at your relative’s home. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your opportunity to find out what you and your relative need to know.

Key things to consider when drawing up a shortlist of home care agencies

  • Check that the agency is regulated by the Care Quality Commission in England, the Regulation and Quality Improvement in Northern Ireland, the Care Inspectorate (in Scotland) or Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (see links above). These regulators monitor and inspect services to make sure appropriate standards of quality and safety are met, and publish inspection reports online to help people choose care.
  • Check that the agency is a member of the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA); these agencies are required to adhere to their Code of Practice to ensure that high standards of care are provided.
  • Look in inspection reports from the regulators, listed above, for evidence of high staff turnover. This might suggest that staff are not happy with their employment. If the agency doesn’t treat its staff well, can you trust them to provide the best care for your relative?
  • What types of regulated activity is the agency registered to carry on? Do they provide the personal care your relative wants and needs?
  • Ask for their Statement of Purpose and price list.
  • Ask to see a copy of the agency’s contract with people who use its services, which details roles and responsibilities.
  • Personal assistants are not regulated and do not have to be registered. However, when choosing an agency, you should check that their staff have relevant training (for example, QCFs, or their predecessor, NVQs, qualifications in lifting and manual handling), are DBS checked, and have insurance in place.

Which? guide to helping loved ones in later life

If you are looking for ways to help a relative stay living at home for longer, or need to find out about the different care options available, this downloadable guide explains your choices and how to find out more. It offers an introduction to choosing sheltered or residential care, plus advice on choosing the best products to aid independent living.

More information

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