What is Home Care?

Home Care, sometimes called Domiciliary care, is an alternative to residential and nursing home care and means carers come to you, giving people another option instead of going into a care home, residential setting or even hospital. Home care can support people with a wide variety of care needs (brought on by illness, long-term medical issues or old age) and allows people to stay in their own home for as long as is practicable.

Good home care agencies practice something called Person Centred Care, meaning the care given should be tailored to the specific needs and wants of the customer. The number of visits, the length of each visit and the tasks required for each visit will depend on individual circumstances and care needs. Some people may need intensive domiciliary care for short periods of time, whilst for others low-level care for a longer period. It’s a very flexible service and should evolve, and change, as the customer’s needs change.

Domiciliary care is often thought of as a service for the elderly, but it can be available, and suitable, for young people, children, and adults with temporary or permanent care needs.

Because Home Care is given in a person’s own home, it can reduce the need for them to spend large amounts of time in hospital and can play an important part in the emotional support of customers who often don’t want to move out, or away, from places they’ve called home for decades.

Domiciliary care is flexible and can cover short visits, where a carer may come to your home for a half hour call, or it can involve a carer living with you 24 hours per day.  This is known as live in care and is increasingly an option for people that don’t want to go into a care home but want the comfort of having someone on hand to help them.

Domiciliary care can be extremely useful to help people before their needs are urgent or extensive.

Your most important questions answered about domiciliary care

1 – What is the difference between domiciliary care, residential care and nursing homes?

Domiciliary care services are provided in a person’s own home. Residential care involves the person receiving care while they live permanently in a specialist establishment set up solely to provide care (residents may choose to move there because of limited mobility, early onset Dementia and other low-level care needs). Nursing homes provide more intensive care for residents than residential homes.

2. What do Home Care agencies do, what help can I get?

The most basic service provided is called companionship, which can be just sitting and providing company but can include help with everyday tasks, such as cleaning or food preparation and shopping. This may involve visits only once or twice a week.

If the customer’s needs are greater then the carers can help with medication and personal care such as washing, dressing and getting ready for bed. It can cover rehabilitation as well, especially for those who may need support after leaving hospital.

3. Where can I find local domiciliary care agencies?

A simple web search for Home Care Agencies near me will show local providers or you can use websites such the Homecare.co.uk to find one in your local area. If you qualify for your care to be provided by the Local Authority, they will provide one for you. If you want a specific company, you can choose for the council to give you the money (known as a direct payment) which you can then use to pay the care provider directly.

4 – How do I know if home care would be better than residential care?

This a decision that can involve several parties, the customer, potentially other family members and possibly medical professionals. But often the right type of care is the one that the customer and possibly their family, feels is appropriate, if they have the capability to make a reasoned decision and no long term or severe medical conditions. For many people domiciliary care services are preferable because they allow them to stay in a place that is familiar, that is comfortable. This allows individuals to keep their independence and any community ties, as they remain in their local area – in lots of cases, they are close to friends and family. It can also be a lot cheaper than a residential option.

Lots of people don’t need residential care – but previously ended up moving into a residential home or sheltered accommodation purely because there was little provision for care at home. Domiciliary care changes that – so as little disruption, distress and loss of security occurs as is possible.

Family and friends may also care for an individual to subsidise the amount of domiciliary care provided, and this can further bring down the cost of care.

5 – What if I have health conditions to consider?

When deciding whether domiciliary care is for you, there are a number of things you’ll need to consider. Firstly, you’ll need to assess your care needs – for this you’ll need to contact your GP or social worker, who can order a report on your condition which is made by a medical professional.

Recommendations can then be made regarding the level and type of care you need. You may be entitled to benefits because of your condition, and you can use these to pay for your domiciliary care.

6 – I have specific needs. Is specialist domiciliary care available?

It really depends on the condition and its severity. Normally domiciliary care is a good option for those with less intensive care needs, or for those with disabilities or palliative care requirements.

If you have special care needs, your first step is contacting your GP, consultant or social worker. They will be able to carry out a care assessment (as above) to determine exactly what types of care support (and any equipment) you will need to enable you to live safely, comfortably, and independently in your own home.

7 – How can I pay for my care costs?

Funding your care depends on many factors including things like where you live and primarily the amount of money you have in savings and assets.

In short though the options are between paying yourself or qualifying for local authority funding. If you have less than £23,250 in savings (called the upper capital limit, or UCL) you might be eligible for the local council to pay towards the cost of your care. From October 2025 this will rise to £100,000 in savings.

The first step is for your council to do an assessment to check how much help you need. This is called a needs assessment. The needs assessment is free, and anyone can ask for one. If you need care, the council will then do a financial assessment (means test) to work out what you will have to pay towards the cost of your care. We advise you be prepared for this as they will require access to a lot of your financial and personal information in this process.

If the means test shows you have sufficient funds, you will not qualify for local authority funding and you have pay for your domiciliary care (home care) yourself.

As domiciliary care may be required for an indefinite period of time (and may eventually need to be replaced by residential care), you’ll need to consider future costs and how long you’ll need the care for. The intensity and type of care may also change – for example, your condition could deteriorate over time, meaning you require more or longer visits.

8 – How can I work out what my care costs will be?

It’s a sad fact that once you start receiving care it is often going to continue and become an ongoing cost. If you’re feeling confused by domiciliary care costs, you may benefit from professional help and specialist financial advisors may be able to help you understanding your care cost options.

If you’re looking to fund your care yourself Care Agencies will inform you of hourly rates and you can start to work out the overall costs depending on the number of visits you require or would like. Agencies should be prepared to do an assessment with you to make recommendations if required, which will give you a firm idea of overall cost of your care.

It’s worth noting that depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to NHS Continuing Healthcare (a service provided by the NHS for those with on-going long-term medical needs). This is free of charge and can be arranged through your GP, consultant or social worker. For more information on the Continuing Healthcare Scheme, you can read our dedicated article here.

10 – How can I choose between domiciliary care providers?

If you find yourself in need of care and support there’s a number of things you can do to prepare yourself as you begin your search for a provider. Firstly, have a clear idea of what your care needs are, (how many times a day you need support and what that support is, how long each visit will take) it’ll help in your conversations with providers, and they should be able to give you an initial idea of costs based on what you say.

Secondly work out your budget – this could evolve as you find out more about the prices each provider quotes, but its best to know what you can afford before you start, and it’ll save time if you can rule out a care provider early if you know they are too expensive for your budget.

Once you’ve good a good idea of what you need and how much you can afford, you can start to search for domiciliary care providers. You can do this through websites such as homecare.co.uk or the CQC, who regulate care providers, who both provide comprehensive listings for those looking for a domiciliary care agency across England, Wales and Scotland.

At this point pull together a small list of around half a dozen who look like they offer the services you require. Most listings will show lists of the kind of needs and conditions they can support. If you can we would recommend you also check reviews and the CQC’s independent rating, watching out for any bad press and poor testimonials.

Once you’ve created your shortlist, it’s time to contact the care providers. For initial contact a call should work, and we have a list of helpful questions you can ask. If you want you can ask for a face-to-face office visit or where the care is to be delivered which could help you get some more detailed costings. Once you have all the information you require you can make a more informed choice.

If you require live-in care a good domiciliary care agency should offer you the opportunity to meet the person they are going to place with you so you make sure have a rapport and help address any fear, anxiety or uncertainty you may understandably be feeling as you welcome a new person into your home. If the domiciliary care provider can’t guarantee that you won’t always see someone new or refuses to introduce you to your caregiver, it may be best to look elsewhere. Be aware though that you will need other carers occasionally as live-in carers do require some time-off and breaks.

11 – How do I know my care provider is safe and professional?

All home care providers are subject to strict domiciliary care standards, as are their residential counterparts.

The CQC (Care Quality Commission) visit, check and individually vet each company, but (as detailed below) it’s worth checking independent reviews and working on word-of-mouth recommendations when choosing a care company. We would not recommend going with any company that has not been registered with, or inspected by, the CQC. You can check whether your domiciliary care provider is reputable and registered with your local authority and the CQC by looking on their website or ringing them to confirm.

The UKHCA is the UK’s official professional association of home care providers – so any member of this society will be subject to additional scrutiny and regulation.

If you choose to go with an individual (perhaps a person you know or a professional freelance caregiver), make sure you have a list of credentials and testimonials, as they also have to maintain domiciliary care standards. You can authenticate testimonials by asking for the contact details of the person who gave it – that way; you can ensure that the feedback is genuine and factual. Freelance providers should be professional in their conduct and should ideally write up a contract between you (or Service Level Agreement) so that expectations are clear from the very beginning.

If you have any safety or security concerns, you should raise these with your care provider early on, to give them the chance to reassure you and put appropriate measures in place if needed.

12 – Who typically works as a domiciliary care worker?

A domiciliary care worker doesn’t need to have any relevant qualifications. However good agencies will start by screening applicants for the right personal attributes such as sympathy and compassion and then go on to provide training in areas such as Food and Nutrition, Healthy and Safety, Manual Handling and Administering Medication. There is a widely accepted qualification known as the Care Certificate and its good practice to check that carers have been through this training and awarded the certificate.

Dom care workers should have been subject to DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks for security purposes. Carers can specialise in certain areas such as dementia care, MS or even end-of-life and if you require specific skills, you should check that they can be provided or sourced by your care company. For example,

On the opposite end of the scale, you may need palliative or ongoing medical care in your own home.

This will be provided by a qualified nurse (known as a district or mobile nurse) and/or a healthcare assistant. This typically will not be provided by a domiciliary care worker.  Both are required to complete relevant training and obtain qualifications to carry out their work.

If you choose to pay privately domiciliary care agencies any good home care company should be more than happy to explain their recruitment process and demonstrate your carer’s suitability for their role.


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