Home Care Direct grew out of the problems the traditional home care sector was facing, around recruiting and retaining carers, knock on quality problems from this high turnover of carers and the high cost of home care for families and State budgets.

We felt at the time there had to be a better way to deliver quality home care than the restrictive and monopolistic model of traditional agencies.

We set up Home Care Direct to provide choice, with the express aims of;

  • Improving the quality of home care provision

  • Making caring an attractive career

  • Making home care more affordable

Since then we have been huge advocates of enabling and empowering carers, of providing choice for both carers and families and for trusting people to make the right decisions. A model of home care based not on a standard set of policies and procedures and rigid pre-set processes and systems. No, rather a model based on the innate desire of people to help their communities and trust in the need to devolve decision making to the local level.

Traditional providers questioned how quality could be assured without assessments, supervisions and mountains of form filling. They felt the only way to assure quality home care was to offer a fully “managed” service, where carers could be controlled and families shoehorned into pre-set packages.

They conveniently forgot that assessments and supervisions are of limited value when you are doing them on different carers every 2 or 3 months. That not all families need a full wrap around service. That the two most important pillars of quality home care are continuity and having a happy well rewarded carer.

Interestingly and importantly, one of the most prestigious and quality focussed traditional providers in the U.K., Home Instead, have now decided to incorporate a platform model into their offering through the purchase of Supercarers. Another traditional provider, Comfort Keepers, are trialling a much watered down version of the platform model in the United States, through their CK Life initiative.

Make no mistake, this is a very significant event in the home care sector and signifies a step change in how the home care sector will operate going forward. This opens up a huge differentiation between Home Instead and their competitors, especially in the vital terrain of carer recruitment.

This is surely recognition that firstly, every family’s needs are different and therefore, choice from a wide ecosystem of models and providers is vital.

Secondly, the sector has a huge issue with recruitment and retention of carers and as such we need to offer other models that can make caring an attractive career and not have carers dependant on a limited number of corporate providers who have a monopoly access to State funds and therefore fully control carers earnings.

Thirdly, that quality home care is about outcomes, not systems and processes.

Home Instead’s interest in a platform seems to stem from

  1. The ability to capture clients earlier in their care needs pathway through a cheaper platform model

  2. An interest in moving into the live-in care market probably magnified due to the woes of nursing homes during this pandemic

  3. The acknowledgement that one size doesn’t fit all for families

  4. The acknowledgement that caring needs to be made a more attractive career

The move is no doubt a real threat to the nursing home sector’s flank, with the rise in popularity of live-in care, which will only continue to grow in the Irish market and with the probable introduction of a Fair Deal Scheme for home care in the near future. How many families would choose the nursing home Fair Deal Scheme over a probable similar one for home care that keeps loved ones at home?

If Home Instead are to introduce it to the Irish market, further tweaking will be necessary. Firstly, Supercarers don’t take responsibility for the tax compliancy of carers on their platform which would be problematic in the Irish market because of the significant tax relief available for families here.

This issue could also facilitate carers and clients working outside the platform after initial contact.

Secondly, labour law in Ireland is more restrictive and changes will be needed to ensure families aren’t at risk of being considered employers.

The movement of such a prestigious player into a platform offering, will also raise the issue of widening the ways families can access home care packages here under any future regulation, to include contracting directly with carers where appropriate.

The sands of the social care sector are well and truly shifting and hopefully to the benefit of families and carers as a whole. Home Instead’s recognition that traditional managed home care provision is broken, will have far reaching consequences for both the home care and nursing home sectors here in Ireland.