When it comes to in-home caregiving services, what often first comes to mind is a nurse providing specialised assistance. However, these services don’t quite fill the needs of those who are able to do most things by themselves but require a bit of help with some various tasks her and there – a bit of cleaning, perhaps, or a drive to the shops to pick up groceries, some cooking, or even just some company.
Looking to provide a solution is Home Care Heroes, a platform connecting everyday people with those in their communities who need domestic assistance and companionship.
Founded by Sydneysiders Jenna Leo and Mathieu Bertrand, the idea for the platform came after Bertrand’s parents moved to Australia from Montreal, Canada. Both had recovered from major illnesses and found it difficult to settle in Sydney.
“As an only child Mat had become the primary carer of both his parents and we were both working full time. Mat’s parents were fiercely independent and would never want to be nursed or dependent on someone; they really loved to explore their community and go to the beach but they continued to get lost as they both had limited capabilities,” Leo explained.
“One of our friends who was between jobs offered to take them to the beach and they had the best day just walking on the sand and having a coffee, and they talked about it for weeks. Once our friend went back to work we tried nursing agencies but they were expensive and would send different people each time and it was hard for us to determine whether someone from Gumtree or other online platforms would be trustworthy with vulnerable people.”
The pair couldn’t find the solution they wanted and so, like many a business idea, they decided to build it themselves.
“As it’s a really personal issue for us, we are really motivated for this to work as we are making a real difference for people in the community,” Leo said.
“Our purpose is to connect people in the same community and help improve social inclusion. Isolation and social exclusion are real problem facing each community. People with disabilities, elderly, the injured or ill are often isolated and excluded from community participation and social activities.”
Leo and Bertrand first approached the building of Home Care Heroes thinking big, wanting to provide all types of home care services possible, from low care through to nursing care. After doing more research, Leo said the pair realised there were a number of nursing agencies doing similar things online, and so they went back to solving their initial problem: getting everyday people to help out with the little things.
The Home Care Heroes platform is focused on three core issues the founders faced with Bertrand’s parents: the high cost and complexity of home care services; the care recipient being unable to choose their caregiver; and the quality of carers.
Self funding the project, the cofounders developed an initial MVP of the platform to get users on board.
To begin on the platform, a care recipient simply creates a profile, after which they can view the heroes in their community and message whichever fits their bill. They can also post jobs on the job board and then view incoming applications and choose the hero from there.
From the perspective of the caregiver – or the ‘hero’ – the platform works by having them create a profile with a photo, bio, services they are willing to provide, and two references. They must also provide an ABN and police check, after which an interview is conducted and their profile activated on the site. They can then view jobs on the job board, write and read blog posts, and view or create community events.
The interviews are key to ensuring the quality of the platform. A mix of questions focused on getting to know the applicant, situational questions, and queries about their experience, Leo said the applicant must have experience taking care of other people, whether it be babysitting or helping their grandparents, so they have clear expectations and abilities to provide one on one help.
“Even if someone has had experience as a nurse in a hospital environment doesn’t mean that they will be activated as a Hero,” Leo said.
“Most importantly we are looking for people who are passionate about making connections and helping people out. Our standards are high and our benchmark is that we won’t approve someone who we wouldn’t have taking care of our immediate family.”
The startup’s main target for its hero base is university and TAFE students, many of whom are studying things like nursing, social work, and psychology and are motivated to get some experience in a related field and learn how to build relationships. This generation of students, Leo added, seems more focused on the meaning behind what they do rather than just seeking financial returns, which makes them the perfect market.
Home Care Heroes is also looking to stay at home mothers and recent retirees who still want something to do in their retirement and are looking for ways they can get involved in the community and help out people in need.
There are currently 120 heroes activated on the platform, with the interview and accreditation process ongoing for around 40 more. The startup is also approved by the National Disability Insurance Scheme as an accredited provider, which means care seekers covered under the NDIS do not pay upfront for services, and may also offer all care seekers peace of mind about the service they are receiving.
Fees for services are determined by Home Care Heroes: care seekers pay $32 per hour, with the caregivers paid $25 and the startup taking the remaining $7, or approximately 22 percent, as its fee.
There are a number of platforms operating in the care space; as well as nursing and support agencies, NRMA-backed Careseekers and Perth startup Care Collective also help connect those needing care with caregivers, however these are more focused on qualified carers.
As Leo explained, Home Care Heroes is focused on building relationships and friendships that will last and make people feel valued and integrated in society.
“We feel that this psychological difference is so important to a person’s well being,” she said.
With Home Care Heroes recently awarded a grant from the AMP Tomorrow Fund, Leo and Bertrand will look to develop version two of the platform next year and grow the service around Australia, particularly into regional areas.
Image: Home Care Heroes. Source: Supplied.