Care in the home is booming

An area that has received some scrutiny in recent weeks, the domiciliary care sector represents an essential service with a growing demand, in which quality is paramount. National franchise brands are well suited to homogenise this quality and provide supplier brand names that can develop a strong sense of trust. Here, franchisors from the sector provide an overview of how the sector is performing

Emma Parker, Franchise Manager, Caremark

There has been very little, if any impact on the sector due to the current economical climate - in fact it has made recruiting staff much easier. People losing their jobs, looking for new careers or seeking new business opportunities have been drawn to safer options in growth industries, such as home care. We are therefore seeing an increased interest in our franchise and our franchise owners are finding it easier to grow their operations. In fact we've achieved 35 per cent month on month network-wide growth since launching.

One of the focuses in the care sector at the moment is about 'personalisation' or self directed support. This is a movement toward enabling people to manage their own care, have a choice in terms of their care provider and also some input into the management of their budget. Caremark has always believed in providing a personal approach to care, developing care packages that are tailor-made to the individual and we firmly believe that the sector's move towards ensuring all care is delivered this way is going to have an extremely positive impact on all those using care services.

Our Pulborough office has been involved in piloting 'self directed support' in West Sussex and our involvement from the outset has allowed us to truly focus on providing the best possible ongoing service to our clients. Our high standards, proven procedures and exceptional working practices have allowed us to build our business while still maintaining fair and competitive fee rates, and our franchise owners are well placed to service personalised contracts as they are instigated in their own territories.

Paul Tarsey, Group Managing Director, Bluebird Care

Home care is what we at Bluebird Care call 'recession resilient' because this isn't a service which people can do without. In fact the growth we have seen over the last few months has been the greatest we have ever had. Every single one of our franchise owners is growing their Bluebird Care business and the growth of the amount of care which the network as a whole is delivering has multiplied at a fantastic rate.

The government has introduced a very exciting scheme called 'personalisation' where people receive cash to pay for their own care. This will revolutionise the way care is delivered and make customer service even more important. I was at a meeting recently with Phil Hope who is the Minister for Care. He stated that the government's expectation is that there is a potential funding gap between what the government currently spends, and what's needed of 6 billion a year. That really took me some while to get my head round until I worked out that it means £120 million pounds a week!

We have worked very hard at growing the reputation of the Bluebird Care brand and this has been hugely successful. We have recently agreed a fantastic co-operation with the largest high street pharmacy chain, Boots, which will see each Bluebird care franchise owner working with their local store and collaborating in sales and promotional activities while Boots will carry our point-of-sale information in their stores.

I wouldn't want anyone to think it's easy, because it isn't. But it is not about working stupid, long hours or burning yourself out. We talk about our system as ESP, which stands for Energy, System and Passion. People need to run their business with energy, they need to stick to the Bluebird Care system and they need the passion about everything they do. We have very high standards for our franchisees and people need to demonstrate these qualities.

We have worked hard to become perceived as market leader and our relationship with fellow market-leader Boots is an indication that we are very well thought of. They are hugely protective of their brand and we take it as a great compliment that they are happy to co-brand many items in their stores. We will never be complacent, however and we work very hard to stay at the top of the tree.

Trevor Brocklebank, Co-founder Home Instead Senior Care

The recession is having very little impact on the home care sector, primarily because if you need care, you need care. It is not an optional or a luxury purchase. That said, as local authority budgets become more stretched and the criteria against which they assess an individual's needs tighten we are seeing more of a shift towards privately purchased care.

We have more than 1,000 clients across the UK and only two have cancelled their care due to the fact that this was being funded from interest they were receiving on their savings. Our biggest growth constraint has been finding quality caregivers but partly because of the recession there are now more people looking for care work and this has assisted us to grow revenues as we are able to take on more work.

We are seeing redundancies in the care home sector as reducing property prices challenges their business model, and we have been approached by a number of care home operators who are looking to diversify into caring for people in their own home sector as they see this is the future of the sector. From our point of view we have seen no redundancies and have created over 800 jobs in the last 12 months alone.

All the signs are that the care in the home sector is performing very well and looking at our own revenues countrywide we are forecast to exceed £10 million in 2009, which given we only opened our first office in 2006 we believe is phenomenal growth.

The care in the home sector is currently in the middle of a huge change programme, driven by the government's personalisation agenda. It is recognised by all political parties and leading charities that the current method of delivering care needs to change to meets the need of our ageing society. Many local authorities have already ceased to operate block contracts and the industry is rapidly moving away from a sector which was dominated by local authority contracts to one where the individual receiving care has much more freedom to select their service provider. The most significant impact is that the industry is changing from one where care is delivered to a price and the skill is in minimising costs to maximise profits to one where quality and value for money becomes much more critical. Over the next few years we will see many more specialist care providers entering the market rather than the one size fits all model that has dominated the industry to date.