Caring for the future

A business providing high quality care services has long been an attractive proposition for would-be franchise owners looking to generate a good income while ‘giving something back’ to the community. However, new legislation bringing sweeping changes to the funding of health and social care has generated exciting new opportunities for independent providers and has propelled care franchises firmly to centre stage. Megan Dunmore reports

As the NHS struggles to cope with the UK’s rapidly ageing population and demand for private care services soars, the major care franchise brands are reporting extraordinary growth.

According to Trevor Brocklebank, co-Founder and CEO of Home Instead Senior Care in the UK, there are other factors at work too. Not least the retirement of the so-called ‘baby boomers’: “This is the generation that benefited from free education, affordable housing and index linked pensions, so they expect – and can afford – more,” he says. “Medical advances mean that people are likely to live longer, but not necessarily in robust health. They may recover from cancer or a stroke, for instance, but as they age, other problems set in such as disability, chronic illness or dementia and then long-term care becomes essential.

“Care is recession resilient. Demand is not going to go away; in fact it’s going to continue to grow at an increasing rate. We can’t guarantee the growth of an individual business – that’s up to the franchise owner – but what we can guarantee is an expanding marketplace with climbing demand for care services,” explains Trevor.

Since the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act last year, more and more people are opting for direct payment from their local authority, enabling them to pay for the care they need from the care provider they choose.

Home Instead Senior Care, as its name suggests, specialises in delivering non-medical domiciliary care services to the elderly and boasts a particular expertise in dementia. Trevor estimates that around half of all clients suffer from dementia and this is an area where Home Instead places particular emphasis.

Long-term care is seen by the government as one of the nation’s most pressing problems, with the elderly population in this country predicted to triple over the next 40 years. However, this is not the only issue, says Kare Plus Managing Director, Steve Welsh.

“There is no doubt that the NHS is bursting at the seams, partly as a result of our ageing population, but also because the health service was never set up to cope with the huge range of treatments and services we now expect of it,” he explains. “This has led the NHS to turn increasingly to private care providers to supply qualified nurses and other personnel to fill the gaps.”

The Kare Plus business model has been developed on this basis, he says. “Our previous background was in nursing recruitment, so it’s an area we understand well at Kare Plus. Although our franchise owners also provide non-medical domiciliary services, what differentiates us in the marketplace is that we also supply nurses and medical personnel to hospitals and care homes, as well as those needing nursing or social care in their own home. We believe this provides an opportunity for our franchise owners to develop multiple income streams, as well as capitalise on the national account opportunities we offer.”

Kare Plus’s on-going success in attracting new national contracts with leading hospital and care home groups, such as Four Seasons Healthcare, Scope, Mencap, Dimensions and Care UK, as well as confirming new Service Level Agreements with the NHS, means Kare Plus is looking to substantially extend its franchise network to service these accounts across the UK, Steve states.

“We can add the necessary experience and sector expertise to the mix,” he explains. “We are very focused on extensive training and continued, on-going support. For those who understand the sector, we can provide excellent business training, while for those from a business background, we have an outstanding clinical team whose role is to train, mentor and support franchise owners. Either way, we are committed to ensuring all our franchise owners are fully compliant, suitably accredited and well-equipped to provide care services to the private sector and to the NHS.”

Bluebird Care franchise owner, Simon Theobald agrees. Formerly Operations Director for the largest corporate home care service provider in the country, Simon invested in a franchise having concluded that a smaller business, integrated into the local community and with the flexibility to tailor services to individual customer requirements, would enable him to provide a better quality of care and enjoy a higher standard of living.

“Franchising is ideally suited to providing excellent local care,” he says. “It is truly rewarding in both senses; my business brings the satisfaction that comes from helping improve someone’s quality of life and is a clear opportunity for me to build a successful, sustainable and profitable business.”

Although Simon only started trading as a Bluebird franchise owner in the first week of May, already he’s well ahead of his business targets with income significantly exceeding his early expectations. With his previous experience of the care marketplace, Simon is often asked by friends why he didn’t simply set up in business on his own. The reasons are simple: “Setting up on my own would have taken so much longer, it’s no easy matter to develop and put in place all the necessary policies and procedures,” he explains. “Instead, I’ve joined a brand that’s one of the best known in the country, with a great reputation in the sector and all the support I need. I moved into my new offices at the beginning of April and by 15th I was up and running. No way could I have achieved that operating alone.”

Although Simon’s prior knowledge of the sector meant, possibly, he needed less support than others, he still highlights the importance of excellent training and on-going support.

“Running your own business is tough,” he confirms. “Suddenly you have to take on so many different roles and the hours can be long - it’s a pretty steep learning curve. Having said that, it’s definitely been the right decision for me – I like being part of a rapidly changing industry and I like dealing with people, so this franchise is just right for me. Give it another twelve to eighteen months and I’ll be looking at buying a second territory - I know there’s certainly the market potential to grow.”

With any franchise, the training and support provided should be amply comprehensive to ensure a new owner is able to run a business successfully right from the word go. This means a constantly adapting franchising model is crucial. Bluebird Care Franchising Director, Simon Dalziel adds: “It has been important for us to constantly develop our business model to meet changes in the care market. There is no doubt that franchising works well in this sector. The biggest advantage we have is the key element of ownership. If you own the business you will go the extra mile a manager probably would not. “We believe it is a better business model to be an expert in one field, i.e. care at home, than trying to cover a number of sectors.”

Caremark, like Bluebird Care, focuses on non-medical care at home and does not specialise in elderly care.

“We offer high quality domiciliary services to any vulnerable individual,“ says Franchise Recruitment Manager at Caremark, Claire Collins.

Claire points out that delivering care is unlike most other businesses, in that franchise owners are dealing with other people’s personal lives; it’s all about building relationships and trust, so the Caremark interview process is understandably rigorous.

“It’s as important to us, as the franchisor, to get the right people in place, as it is for the franchise owner to choose the right franchise,” she says. “Our success is based on a business model that emphasises adherence to policies and procedures which are strictly audited. To that end, we provide very high levels of support for our franchise owners, with a ratio of one Franchise Support Manager for every fifteen franchise owners.”

According to Claire, Caremark is the only social care franchise which has training courses independently approved by the IIRFM (International Institute of Risk & Safety Management). “This is incredibly important,” she insists. “Our franchise owners need to be compliant and remain compliant. Professionalism as well as compassion is at the heart of our brand.”

She adds that, with guidance and support, Caremark franchise owners can expect to have built a business with six permanent staff and around 60 to a 100 care workers within three years. “Of course, Caremark is a management franchise, so our business opportunity is attractive to people whose previous career might have been in a corporate blue chip company, but who have reached an age where their own parents are ageing and are perhaps in need of care. A franchise like ours enables them to change direction, provides a lucrative business environment but also an opportunity to contribute to their community.”

This comprehensive all-encompassing approach is an idea that Gary Farrer, Managing Director of SureCare, truly believes in. He has taken the business to new levels since his arrival. Farrer previously owned the Lancashire-based integrated care provider, Safehands Group, which he together with his wife Stephanie, built into a sizeable business, which he eventually sold in 2011. Now, SureCare is planning mass expansion, to double the number of franchises to 50 within just two years and to have a presence in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Farrer explains: “SureCare has traditionally been a provider of domiciliary care services, but the care business is undergoing enormous changes and there is a need for companies such as ours to provide a much broader range of services to our customers.

“We have now created a franchise business that is able to offer a community of care services for life’s journey. This means our franchise owners can provide services for the very young through to those in later life.”

But SureCare are not the only franchise in the care innovation business. Care franchise, Right at Home, offers investors an entirely different home care business model, providing discerning, personalised care in durations of an hour upwards. Right at Home’s clients are not charged for the time spent travelling and its staff are meticulously trained to be punctual. In the Right at Home business model, going the extra mile is standard procedure.

UK Master Franchisor Ken Deary said: “Very few businesses give franchise owners the opportunity of knowing they can make a huge difference to someone’s well-being. At Right at Home, we are driven by the fact our services help vulnerable adults receive the dignity, respect and kindness they deserve, on a daily basis.

“Although we franchise our business, we never forget we are first and foremost a care company and, as such, our business is not just about profitability, it is about making a real difference to people’s lives. We never forget that our outstanding care model is best delivered by quality, highly motivated franchise owners.”

Right at Home follows a deliberately measured growth strategy, allowing Ken and his team to work closely with new franchise owners from the outset.

Home Instead Managing Director, Trevor Brocklebank, concludes: “The leading care franchises may all seem at first sight to be pretty similar, but once you look beneath the surface, they all have their own specialisms and individual business models. For those looking for a future in the care sector, it’s not a matter of choosing the best franchise, the important question to ask in my view is ‘which is the right franchise for you?”

“It’s as important to us, as the franchisor, to get the right people in place, as it is for the franchise owner to choose the right franchise,” she says. “Our success is based on a business model that emphasises adherence to policies and procedures which are strictly audited. To that end, we provide very high levels of support for our franchise owners, with a ratio of one Franchise Support Manager for every fifteen franchise owners.”

According to Claire, Caremark is the only social care franchise which has training courses independently approved by the IIRFM (International Institute of Risk & Safety Management). “This is incredibly important,” she insists. “Our franchise owners need to be compliant and remain compliant. Professionalism as well as compassion is at the heart of our brand.”

She adds that, with guidance and support, Caremark franchise owners can expect to have built a business with six permanent staff and around 60 to a 100 care workers within three years. “Of course, Caremark is a management franchise, so our business opportunity is attractive to people whose previous career might have been in a corporate blue chip company, but who have reached an age where their own parents are ageing and are perhaps in need of care. A franchise like ours enables them to change direction, provides a lucrative business environment but also an opportunity to contribute to their community.”

This comprehensive all-encompassing approach is an idea that Gary Farrer, Managing Director of SureCare, truly believes in. He has taken the business to new levels since his arrival. Farrer previously owned the Lancashire-based integrated care provider, Safehands Group, which he together with his wife Stephanie, built into a sizeable business, which he eventually sold in 2011. Now, SureCare is planning mass expansion, to double the number of franchises to 50 within just two years and to have a presence in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Farrer explains: “SureCare has traditionally been a provider of domiciliary care services, but the care business is undergoing enormous changes and there is a need for companies such as ours to provide a much broader range of services to our customers.

“We have now created a franchise business that is able to offer a community of care services for life’s journey. This means our franchise owners can provide services for the very young through to those in later life.”

But SureCare are not the only franchise in the care innovation business. Care franchise, Right at Home, offers investors an entirely different home care business model, providing discerning, personalised care in durations of an hour upwards. Right at Home’s clients are not charged for the time spent travelling and its staff are meticulously trained to be punctual. In the Right at Home business model, going the extra mile is standard procedure.

UK Master Franchisor Ken Deary said: “Very few businesses give franchise owners the opportunity of knowing they can make a huge difference to someone’s well-being. At Right at Home, we are driven by the fact our services help vulnerable adults receive the dignity, respect and kindness they deserve, on a daily basis.

“Although we franchise our business, we never forget we are first and foremost a care company and, as such, our business is not just about profitability, it is about making a real difference to people’s lives. We never forget that our outstanding care model is best delivered by quality, highly motivated franchise owners.”

Right at Home follows a deliberately measured growth strategy, allowing Ken and his team to work closely with new franchise owners from the outset.

Home Instead Managing Director, Trevor Brocklebank, concludes: “The leading care franchises may all seem at first sight to be pretty similar, but once you look beneath the surface, they all have their own specialisms and individual business models. For those looking for a future in the care sector, it’s not a matter of choosing the best franchise, the important question to ask in my view is ‘which is the right franchise for you?”