What the pandemic has done for in-home care

A year on – and what have we learnt? Whilst the battle is still ongoing, the care industry continues to march up to the battle lines and help pave the way for the future. NHS workers have been clapped for, experts have been thanked for creating world-beating vaccines and care staff up and down the country have been praised for their commitment to the cause. Perhaps the best part of all, though, is that whilst the virus forced us to be apart, the industry has never been closer. We’re all involved with the same fight, a fight that will determine our future. As the future approaches at an accelerating speed, however, it’s clear that there’s still a way to go before we return to normal. To recognise how far things have come along, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the last 12 months for the in-home care sector.

So, how does it look when held against 2019? Of course, we’ve seen the introduction of face masks, washing our hands more regularly and social distancing, but, for us, it’s much more than that. Whereas on the surface, it might appear to have needed an altered approach, for Visiting Angels it’s probably emphasised many of our key values and promises that we offer to families and their loved ones. Here are just a few elements of the franchise model that have helped with keeping care moving forward.

Education is still key with our prospective clients and the people who first approach us about care for their loved one. Our franchisees spend time explaining that they have the right to choose their carer and people are surprised by that. They expect carers to be stretched at the moment and certainly we’re in high demand, but our Choose Your Caregiver initiative remains a key part of what we deliver. So whether our clients have daily essential visits or are using us simply for companionship, they are delighted to choose their carer based on a personality and interest match.

The education theme naturally then runs through into the client’s understanding of COVID-safe processes and the measures Visiting Angels take versus the standard measures they might see on the television. The Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, Care Quality Commission and the Association of Directors of Public Health expect care staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 to complete 10 days of self-isolation before returning to work. Our carers at must also return a negative test before they can return to work. It seemed like the only logical and responsible process to undertake to ensure the safety of our staff and clients.

Our ethos at Visiting Angels is ‘carer-centric’. Whilst the general public have been commending carers across the UK, our focus is still on putting procedures in place to ensure their safety. After all, they are the ones on the frontline, delivering our service and proudly representing the Visiting Angels name. We’ve provided access to ample PPE, a decision that I took on as franchisor rather than relying on the government’s supply chain. We’ve also given them relevant training for the situation and adjusted schedules to allow for more time to prepare between client visits. We created the safest environment to give them the best opportunity to carry on doing what they do best.

For that very reason, we have ensured all franchisees and caregivers receive their vaccinations as soon as possible. If they haven’t had their vaccines just yet, both are being tested twice a week to minimise the risk and prepare for any illness. The situation is extremely demanding and we need caregivers on the ground, but we also have a duty to ensure necessary precautions are being taken to help them do their job properly. In fact, in early February when a survey by the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) revealed the national average for in-home carer vaccination was at 32%, we had vaccinated 98% of our care staff.

As care stays front of mind for many people, that same feeling is echoed by savvy entrepreneurs as they recognise the potential in a care business. Whilst in 2020 we doubled the size of our franchisee network, this year is promising to be a successful one too. We’ve welcomed three new offices in 2021, all ready to embark on making an impact in their local community. Our March training class will also include our new Franchise Manager, Bella Hallam, who will deliver ongoing support to our franchisees in the south of the UK.

Whilst a lot has changed in the past 12 months, the resilience of the sector has really shone through. There is true strength within the in-home care world, and it’s reassuring to know I’m exactly where I should be – with a team of franchisees and carers who feel the same sense of belonging.

Dan Archer is the UK Managing Director of Visiting Angels. Established in 1998 in the US, the brand has over 600 franchisees operating in five countries. Visiting Angels’ mission is to become the UK care sector’s employer of choice by 2022, and, to achieve this, the brand has positioned itself in the UK as being ‘carer-centric’. Launched in Sheffield in 2017, the first UK franchise was recognised as Best International Franchise at the brand’s annual conference in recognition of both its exceptional approach to its care workers and its management team, reaching a million-pound turnover in year two.