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Posts tagged ‘Care Agencies’

How (not) to chose a carer – Part 2

Read this before you employ a carer

Until you trust a carer, never leave them in a room alone where you have money, medication (especially if it is opioid-based), jewelry or small valuable objects. I feel so sad to write this, but over the years I have had over £2,000 worth of property stolen as well as money and medication. I’ve had food “disappear” too, as well as cutlery, though both of these items may well just have landed up in the trash.

Some carers can be very acquisitive. I nearly always have a box of things ready for my daughter and grandsons to take home with them when they visit. I’ve had two carers in particular who would always ask if they could take things from the box to send back to their home country. Both knew my daughter and the boys, but would always try their luck!

Employing carers through Direct Payments is an option encouraged by many Local Authorities (LAs). But wonderful as that sounds it can prove to be a complete nightmare. Some of the pitfalls I and others have come across include; not been allocated enough money to enable you to pay a carer the Living Wage. Another issue can be dealing with pay roll, especially if you employ more than one carer. I landed up with a tax bill of over £400 because there had been an error made in calculating my employee’s tax. My carer had given the correct info to the payroll company but they would accept no responsibility and as the employer I had to foot the bill!

Someone I know employed a carer who had previously worked for her via an Agency used by her LA. The carer concerned had been with my friend for over 18 months and she was happy with her. The Agency was closing down so my friend decided to move to Direct Payments. The Carer produced a wage slip with all her details on it, including her NI number, she showed a passport which entitled her to be in the UK, and a valid DBS check.

Over a year later my friend was visited as part of a spot-check audit and to her horror was told the NI number her carer was using was not valid & she was accused of deliberately employing someone who had no right to work in the UK! The carer “disappeared” back to her own country – it appeared she had been using someone else’s documents. The stress & distress this caused my friend was horrendous.

The UK government requires anyone employing a staff to enrol them on a pension scheme, something else that can add a further level of stress. Many LAs have a local organisation that helps with these issues, IPBN is one, but other LAs seem to provide little help or the organisation who in theory helps with this is so underfunded that there is a long waiting list for their services. Another consequence of Government cuts!

There is a great website which is well worth reading if this is something you or someone you know are considering doing.

The experiences of myself and friends who have the cognitive ability and strength of will to employ their own carers are shocking enough, but imagine the difficulty of doing all of this for an aged family member when you live far away. I know many who have struggled with this – and eventually have found everything to difficult and moved their relative into a care facility.

One of the best prices of advice I can give is to suggest people employ Trainee nurses, or Nurses who have trained abroad, but are awaiting their UK registration. My experience is that they often make the best carers, they are motivated and want to learn. Because of my own nursing background I’ve be able to help and support them with written work, or just been there as a listening ear when they were struggling. The other thing I’ve found myself doing is acting as a mentor in helping them deal with difficult clients, family members or employers! This has been great for me as I’ve felt useful again, and I hope it’s given them the support they needed.

Choosing a carer can be a lottery, but if you manage to find a great one, they are worth their weight in gold.

How (not) to chose a carer – Part 1

Finding the right carer can be like crossing a minefield

I have needed carers to help me for over 10 years now and these are some of the things I’ve learnt.

If you chose to use an Agency you will be able to meet with a number of different companies to see which one is able to best meet your needs.

However, if your care is organised by Social Workers, you or you family will have little choice as to which Agency provides your care needs as this is decided for you by your LA (Local Authority). But most importantly, you do still have a choice over who comes into your home.

If you find a carer disrespectful or rude or they do not understand your needs or provide poor care, you have a right to refuse to have that carer back again.

Because care work is so poorly paid a high percentage of agency carers are from outside the UK. My experience is that many do not either speak or understand sufficient English to be able to meet my needs. And if I’m struggling to work with them, heaven help anyone who is deaf or has impaired vision or speech!

I have spent almost all of my working life employing Nurses and carers from ethnically diverse backgrounds – so I’m well used to making sure care staff can be easily understood by their colleagues and the residents they care for. Also I often had a good number of applicants for each job. However Agencies today are usually so pressured to provide a service that they take on staff whose English is not as good as it should be.

Carers are in our homes for a short fixed time only and they always seem to be rushing to get to their next client. An Agency I used recently sent me a carer who was good – but every time she got delayed at a previous client’s house she missed my visit – leaving me with no breakfast and unable to take the pills I need to have with food. My pain levels increased dramatically, impacting on the rest of my day. After 3 mornings of this – I had no alternative but to ask the agency not to send me that carer again and made the decision to go back to directly employing someone.

The example I’ve just used is fairly extreme, but often it’s been really simple things that carers have struggled with – not burning food – making sure food is cooked properly & served on a hot plate or bowl. Making sure I have the right cutlery. Washing up is a very basic task, but yet I’ve often found that I’ve need to check that dishes and cutlery are washed properly.

I’ve had carers who have refused to do any domestic work, ie cleaning or hoovering, even if that has been part of the work they are contracted to do. I’ve had a carer pull a Dyson so roughly that she has broken the hose – and then denied she had done so – the agency refused to take responsibility for the damage, and whilst I was still arguing with their insurers – the agency lost the contact with the borough I lived in and went bust – so I ended up very out of pocket.

For a time one London Borough where I lived paid a company to undertake shopping at Tesco’s for clients. For the 3 months I used them I don’t think I ever got the right order! One day when my flat front door and step were being painted the delivery guy walked onto the step and left a large black boot print on my carpet and slammed my front door so hard he made a hole in the wall of my hall! As soon as I realised I called the agency & the Council – the agency were less than helpful and I only got a very small settlement.

There are good agency carers, but I no know it can take time for me to find the carer who can best meet my needs. I have used 6 or 7 agencies so far and only one sent me a great carer from the outset, with others I went though at between 5 or 8 people to get someone who was able to care for me properly.

This is the first of two blog posts on this topic.

Part 2 will follow shortly.

Finding a Cleaner

In London, for many people finding an honest, reliable and competent cleaner is not easy. If you are disabled, it seems to be even more difficult.

When I first needed help with personal care and doing housework, my care was provided through the local authority where I live, an outer London borough. These services were contracted out to care agencies. For the first year when I was living in a different part of the borough both my care and housework were provided by the same agency, and although I was allocated very few hours both the women sent to me were very good. They were kind and compassionate and the lovely woman who did my personal care was actually a qualified nurse in her own country. She was better than many qualified nurses I have encountered in the NHS.

However, when I moved to the area I now live in, although I was living in the same borough, I had services provided by a different agency. In the first year I had them I must have been sent over 20 different carers! I never knew what time they would arrive or who I would be seeing. Very unsettling, even worse, many of them did not seem to either understand or speak English, much less know either how to clean or deliver personal care.

Having managed Nursing Homes and care staff for over 20 years, I am used working with staff from many different ethnic backgrounds, as well as carrying out employment interviews and appraisals. Understanding staff for whom English Is not their first language is second nature to me. Few of the carers I encountered would have been employed by me, or remained in my employment if previously recruited!

It seemed as though I was phoning the agency office to complain on a weekly basis. Even worse was the issue of things going missing from my flat. I had money, jewelry, food, medication and other small items stolen. I also had crockery and glasses chipped or broken. It was almost impossible to get the agency to taken action, such as compensating me or involving the police. On two separate occasions when things had gone missing, I discovered that the person doing my care was not the person allocated by the agency. The carer concerned had ‘swapped’ with a friend!

Complaints to the council, were often a waste of time and breath! Being told, “Oh yes, we have problems with the contract, we will be reviewing it soon”. So I was delighted when I was told I would be eligible for Direct Payments. This meant that I could employ carers of my own choosing and directly manage their employment. Apart from the length of time it took to organise, I seem to remember it was over 6 months and involved two different support organisations it has meant I’ve had much better and more reliable care.

But there have been drawbacks, the first being that the amount of money per hour allocated to pay carers by the council has not increased in the last three years. This means that in order to retain the carers I have to either subsidise their pay myself or employ then for shorter hours. I do a bit of both. To give an idea of the difference, the council calculates that I should pay just over £7 per hour, whereas most carers and cleaners in London charge at least £10 per hour. Quite a difference!

The brilliant woman who does my personal care has been with me for ages and is really good, but she doesn’t usually do housework, so I employ a separate cleaner. Again the first person I employed was good, but she decided to return to her own country on holiday and hasn’t come back to England. For a time my kind neighbour helped out, but then she needed surgery so I had to start from scratch to find someone. I spoke to all the people I knew, but those who had a cleaner said she did not have any spare hours, would have to travel too far, or were changing £12 per hour, sadly well beyond my budget.

I was starting to think that I would have to rely on the Quentin Crisp theory of dusting.

It seemed as though finding a cleaner was like looking for gold dust!

After my experience with agency staff who were not personally known to me, I was reluctant to use one the many Eastern European women who put flyers through my door. First there was the problem of checking documentation. I’m not up to date enough to make sure I’m not being shown dodgy paperwork. I also didn’t want to find myself, as one person I know was, being interviewed by immigration officers about the person she had unwittingly employed!

I was beginning to think I’d never find a new cleaner and was having to ask my carer to do extra hours she didn’t always have time to do. Then my neighbour, who also is also a cleaner, managed to speak to one of her friends who also does cleaning. One her clients had just moved out of London so she had some spare hours. My neighbour knew this woman very well and assured me she was good at her job, reliable and honest. I couldn’t wait to interview her!

Luckily we were soon able to arrange a time, and two days later she began to work for me. I’m so pleased with her, she is hard-working and certainly excellent at cleaning. Friends visiting me earlier this week actually commented on the results of her work!

I’m still getting used to her rather heavily accented English, but we manage to communicate well enough. She turns up on time, nothing has gone missing and nothing broken either! Another of my friends is now on her waiting list.

So finally, I’ve found my cleaner, I just hope that she will be able to stay with me until I move.

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