There’s still ample scope for growth in the care and elderly services sector
A franchise in the care and elderly services sector can enable you to benefit your community and own a thriving business - and the choice embraces more than home care.
Demand for services aimed at the elderly is likely to increase. Age UK has estimated that 1.2 million people over the age of 65 had some level of unmet care need in 2016-17, up from one million in 2015-16. A report published by the Personal Social Services Research Unit has estimated that the number of disabled older people who will need help with at least one daily living task will increase by 67 per cent from 2015 to 2040.
There is ample scope for growth in the elderly care and services sector - but the market is changing and broadening and franchises are adapting to meet the new reality.
Challenges for home care
Years ago many home care franchises got much of their business by bidding for local authority contracts to provide in-home care services. However, relying on these contracts is now a less sustainable business model.
A 2018 Age UK report called Behind The Headlines: the battle to get care at home states: ‘Since 2009- 10 local councils have seen a 26 per cent reduction in their real-terms budget. This has led to a six per cent real-terms cut in direct council spending on adult social care.’
Meanwhile, overstretched councils have tightened eligibility criteria: 2018 figures showed that home care provided by councils had fallen by three million hours since 2015.
As a result, many care franchises have reduced or even abandoned local council contracts. They prefer to serve the private market, where clients are fully or partially self-funded, either from their own resources or through direct payment schemes that allow clients to buy their own care using local authority funds.
On top of this, 41 per cent of people reported being dissatisfied with care services in 2017, a six per cent increase since 2016.
Exacerbating all this is the shortage of carers. At any one time, there are around 110,000 vacancies in the care sector and staff turnover is 30.7 per cent in England alone, according to a 2018 report by Skills for Care, the strategic body for workforce development in adult social care in England.
Can franchises fix the social care sector?
All these factors are leading to a new model of home care franchise, which prioritises quality of care for both clients and care staff - and it’s clear many clients and their families are willing to pay a bit more to get it.
Dan Archer, UK managing director of international home care franchise Visiting Angels, which has four franchisees in the launch process, says: “I think if we look after our carers better we can fix the social care sector one client at a time.”
Visiting Angels’ ‘carer centric approach’ benefits carers, clients and also the franchisor, according to Dan. Its carers are paid above the national minimum wage and for travel time between clients - not universal in the sector.
“We can afford to do this because we only take on clients who are self-funded or paying through direct payments,” Dan says. “Many people are willing to pay more for higher quality care.”
Higher wages and benefits attract carers in a tight market. “We are attracting people who would not usually consider the care sector,” Dan says. “In our Sheffield office, 40 per cent of our carers have not worked in care before.”
Training is delivered in the classroom, rather than by elearning, as is common elsewhere in the sector. “This means training can be adapted to suit the trainee, but it also means we can measure and evaluate the trainee’s performance and commitment,” Dan adds.
Encouraging carer retention
For all home care franchises, retention has become even more important as fewer EU nationals - who have been a source of care staff - are coming to the UK seeking work.
Visiting Angels offers its trained carers regular employee contracts at an hourly rate, plus a rate per mile for use of their own car. After six months they’re offered free car valeting and, after a year, free vehicle servicing.
“This year our staff turnover is under 20 per cent and it’s been as low as 13 per cent in the past,” Dan says.
Other options in care and elderly services
Home care services are by no means the only option if you want a business aimed at the elderly. The rewards of giving something back to the community and your target market remain the same, but the weight of regulation is less outside the care sector and the franchise investment can be lower.
Paul Boniface, franchise director at Ableworld, a leading mobility and stairlift retailer, says: “We expect the market to grow by about 10 per cent year on year.” Ableworld has 35 outlets, 15 of which are owned by franchisees, and it’s looking for more. Market drivers include the fact that the provision of mobility items through the NHS and local authorities is increasingly restricted to priority cases.
“Some people may not be eligible, or have to wait longer, and they may not be offered a choice of products so they opt to buy,” Paul explains.
“We try to keep prices affordable, while still allowing our franchisees to make a profit.”
Retail mobility product sales are subject to regulations. Although they’re far less onerous than those in the care sector, Paul stresses: “We look for franchisees who want to join an ethical franchise. We would rather turn away a sale than sell a customer the wrong product.”
Most of Ableworld’s customers prefer to shop in stores where they can try products out and get answers to their questions, so trade is not threatened by the internet as much as in other retail sectors.
Many elderly and disabled people rely on family and friends to help them get out and about - but they can’t always be available. Franchisees with Driving Miss Daisy aim to fill that gap with a transportation and optional companionship service.
John Overdijking, the company’s director of sales and marketing, says: “When promoting our service, we talk about being family when family can’t be there.
“Our franchisees, or the companion drivers who work for them, will go into a client’s home, help them prepare for their trip out by, for instance, helping them on with their coats, ensuring they have their keys, checking that the home is secure and helping them into the vehicle.”
On shopping trips, companion drivers can stay with clients, helping them go round the shops and assisting in any way requested. If clients are attending a clinic appointment, companion drivers will help them check in and sit with them in the waiting area before taking them home. If the family requests it, they can even accompany clients into appointments and take notes to pass on to the family.
All franchisees and companion drivers go through the Alzheimer’s UK Dementia Friends programme, which aids awareness about the way dementia affects people’s lives and provides information about actions that can make a difference.
John adds: “The franchise attracts people who want to deliver a service to the community, so most do the driving and provide the companionship themselves, but some will employ additional companion drivers as they add more vehicles in their territory, though some are run as purely management franchisees.
“We help you get the private hire licence required and all franchisees and drivers need enhanced DBS and police checks. But unlike home care services, you are not regulated by the Care Quality Commission.” Driving Miss Daisy, which has 30-plus franchises in the UK, is looking for more.
The power of music
Many care homes offer music and singing activities to residents, as research shows that music benefits people with dementia.
Alistair Burns, NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia, says: “Music can have many benefits in the setting of dementia. It can help reduce anxiety and depression, help maintain speech and language, is helpful at the end of life, enhances quality of life and has a positive impact on carers.”
There are several franchises that involve delivering music activities to residential homes, including Musical Moments, Musica and Music for Health.
Beckie Morley, founder of Musical Moments, says: “When my nana was living with dementia, I discovered the amazing effect music had on her communication, happiness and general well-being.
“I play the violin and studied classical music, music psychology and community music, so I offered to do a music activity in her care home. I was offered a regular booking and Musical Moments grew out of that.”
After two years in franchising, Musical Moments now has 15 franchisees and Beckie says: “We are still getting enquiries from care homes across the country and we cannot fulfil them all, so in 2020 I want to take on at least another seven franchisees.”
Franchisees should be competent singers or instrumentalists able to play a portable instrument and happy performing in front of groups.
Mobility products deliver rewarding growth
“Almost everything we sell involves advice and information”
Gerald Roper’s search for an ethical, caring business that offered something valuable to the community led him to the Ableworld mobility retail franchise.
The Colchester-based franchisee says: “Unlike much of the retail sector, there is a genuine need for our products and demand is set to grow as the number of older people increases.
“Almost everything we sell involves advice and information. Even tiny things like the ferrules of walking sticks vary, so you need plenty of empathy and the ability to listen. That means every day is varied. Older people often have interesting stories to tell and I’ve been to houses displaying MBEs and letters from the Queen.”
Biology graduate Gerald adds: “Communication skills, transferred from my former science teaching career, help in this business and training from Ableworld means I now know a lot about mobility products.
“This is a rewarding sector to work in. It’s better getting into it as a franchisee than on your own because product suppliers are keen to work with organisations that can achieve high levels of sales and show good back-up support for products such as stairlifts, which Ableworld provides.”
Focusing on carers to deliver better care
“Our pay rates are higher than others locally”
Hammad Cheema’s experience in recruiting care workers led him to choose the Visiting Angels franchise when he wanted to start an elderly care business.
He says: “My wife and I already have a child care franchise, but when we set it up we were inundated with care job applicants. Now the market has changed and good candidates are scarce, so you have to offer more to attract and retain the best people. We chose Visiting Angels because of its carer centric approach.”
Hammad is recruiting now, with the aim of launching the franchise in Boston Manor, London in early 2020. Recruitment includes psychometric tests, two interviews, DBS certification and three months of classroom training before carers become proper employees - a thorough approach that makes a big difference to the service provided.
“Our pay rates are higher than others locally, we pay for travelling time and give other benefits, but more motivated carers deliver better care.” he says. “I would not sleep peacefully knowing we were not delivering the best care we possibly could.”
How we are tackling isolation
“Many tell us it’s like driving with a friend”
When Andrew Foley saw a documentary about loneliness and isolation, he resolved to take action. Now he and partner Lucy own a Driving Miss Daisy franchise in Sutton Coldfield, providing assisted transport and companionship to elderly people as well as disabled and young people, often with specialist needs.
“Many people cannot access services and activities because they need more assistance than taxi services provide,” Andrew says. “We see improvements in the health and confidence of our clients when they get out more. Many tell us it’s like driving with a friend.”
After Andrew and Lucy took redundancy from management jobs in the energy sector, they considered a home care franchise. But Andrew came across Driving Miss Daisy at a franchise exhibition.
“It was more affordable for us and it means we can make a positive difference in our community,” he says. “Demand is high - only seven months after launch we have taken on two extra companion drivers.”
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications