If you are paying for your homecare service from your own means or benefits in the form of a direct payment, you should receive and sign a contract with the agency arranging your care. The contract may be entitled “Terms of Business”, “Terms and Conditions”, or similar. It will usually be accompanied by a breakdown of the fees you will be expected to pay and a more detailed booklet, often referred to as a “service users’ guide”.
The contract explains the business relationship between you and the agency and any conditions that you must comply with in order to continue using the service. Although a very rare occurrence, a written contract also gives you a form of redress through the courts, should a dispute arise between you and your agency that cannot be resolved using the agency’s complaints procedure.
You should usually receive a copy of the contract to sign before your service starts, unless your care has been arranged to respond to an urgent situation. In this case you should receive a copy of the contract as soon after the service begins as possible.
If the agency will be providing a care service (rather than just introducing a worker for you to employ) you should usually expect the contract to cover a range of issues, including:
- How your needs, views and preferences will be taken into account and reviewed regularly;
- The agency’s commitment to undertake the services that they have agreed to provide;
- Provisions for you to cancel or suspend the service;
- How you will be charged and invoiced for your service;
- Arrangements for the agency to review its fees;
- The provider’s actions if you do not pay your fees at the agreed times;
- Fees that you may have to pay if you wish to employ a homecare worker introduced to you by the agency;
- Arrangements to protect your health and safety;
- Your obligation to maintain a safe home environment for the agency’s staff.
The contract is therefore an important document, and you should read it carefully before signing it, and ask for any additional information you may need to understand what the contract means. The agency can usually help, but you could also ask friends or relatives, an advocate, a voluntary organisation, or your solicitor.