Choosing the right care provider

Choosing a care provider is a huge decision, and it can feel like an overwhelming responsibility. But there are plenty of places you can to turn to for help. If a loved one needs support and doesn't already have a social worker, the first step is to contact your local authority social care department. They will arrange for care needs assessment and depending on the outcome, establish the appropriate support package.

The right kind of care

Deciding on what type of support is right depends entirely on what works best for the individual, at that particular time in their life. Some may find a residential home more suitable on an on-going basis. Others may benefit from the flexibility and independence of a supported living solution. Typically, as part of the assessment process, the funding authority will determine the care package, but the views of close relatives should also be taken into account.

Residential homes offer a safe, therapeutic environment for people with complex needs who are not yet ready, or unable, to live more independently. Trained staff, who get to know their residents very well, are on hand at all times to provide personalised support and specialist care as required. Good homes have a real sense of community; there are other residents to socialise with, shared facilities and often a range of organised activities to build skills and self-confidence.

Residential care is all-inclusive - meals, accommodation, care services, household and personal expenses, most activities and transport are all directly funded. Residential care providers must be registered with the Care Quality Commission and undergo regular inspections to ensure they meet statutory requirements.

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Supported living services provide care for those in their own or rented accommodation, who want to live as independently as possible while still being able to rely on the individual support they need. It's ideal for people who need help with day-to-day tasks and activities, or may find communication, managing behaviour and developing friendships difficult, but don't require full time residential care. Care packages range from a few hours a week to 24/7, live-in support, and many specialist supported living environments provide a similar community feel to a residential home.

In supported living, personal care and accommodation are provided under separate contractual arrangements. Housing is generally provided through the local authority or a registered housing association, care through a specialist provider. The funding authority meets the cost of care direct, and the individual pays for housing, household and personal expenses, through personal benefits or earnings. Not all aspects of supported living are subject to the same scrutiny as residential care, so it's important to assess the care provider thoroughly.

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What to look for in a provider

Once the type and scope of care required have been determined, it's a good idea to make a shortlist, the funding authority will be doing the same thing. Your care manager will propose one or more local providers, but you can also do your own research. Relatives often influence the choice of provider if they are able to present a solid case for their preference.

There are various websites that will direct you to care providers: is one of the most popular, with detailed descriptions of all registered services, and thousands of public reviews.

Once you've found a provider you're interested in, look them up on the Care Quality Commission website to see the results of recent inspections.

When evaluating a care provider, it's worth looking at:

  • Is the provider well-established, with an acknowledged reputation for quality of care?
  • Are they fully regulated?
  • How frequently have inspections occurred? - which may be a sign of problems
  • Are they members of the leading care sector associations?
  • Do they specialise in the specific condition your loved one lives with?
  • Can they provide evidence of positive outcomes for people with that condition?
  • How do they measure and report on the progress of those they support?
  • Do they have specialist teams, like Positive Behaviour Support?
  • Do they work closely with other care professionals, like speech and language therapists?
  • Do they provide a meaningful programme of activities?
  • Do they provide social, educational and vocational support?
  • Do their values appear similar to your own?

Arranging a visit

Once you've narrowed your shortlist, always arrange to visit the homes or services in person. Take the time to meet the manager and staff and get a feel for the organisation. Try to speak to some of the other people who live there. Perhaps take someone with you so you can chat about what you learnt. Visit more than once, at different times of day. Never be afraid of asking questions - the more information you have, the more confident you'll feel you're making the right choice.

If you're visiting a service, you might want to consider:

  • Is the location convenient for visiting friends and relatives?
  • What's the area like? Are there plenty of local amenities?
  • Are the support team friendly and helpful? Do they seem knowledgeable?
  • Do the other people living there have similar needs?
  • Do the support workers appear to have a good relationship with the people they support, and treat them with dignity and respect?
  • What direct support is provided? Is it one-to-one or shared?
  • Can individuals have a key worker?
  • How will the organisation assess your loved one's needs and measure their progress?
  • Are people given access to a programme of activities and the chance to learn new skills?
  • Are people supported to take an active role in decision-making about the service?
  • How does the team involve and communicate with relatives?
  • Is the service well looked after and well-equipped?
  • Are the bedrooms suitable and well-furnished?
  • Are there specialist facilities? Has the environment been adapted and is there access to assistive technology?
  • Is there outdoor space?
  • Does the service have its own transport?
  • Does it feel like an institution or a home?

How to find out more

At Choice Care, we're ready to provide advice and support throughout your journey, whether about our services, or more generally about the process and challenges of finding the right care provider. To get in touch:

Or use our confidential online enquiry form.

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