Getting needs assessed

The social services department of your council carries out an assessment of your care and support needs if you are finding it difficult to manage at home. 

Care and support services

Care and support services are services arranged or provided by the council to enable you to live as independently as possible in your own home or within the community. Services in your existing home can include care provision or adaptations to your property.

Care and support services can also include the provision of residential accommodation in a care home either on a permanent basis or as a short-term option. 

Other housing options include sheltered housing or supported housing.  

Care and support assessments

A care and support assessment (also called a needs assessments) will review of your personal circumstances and is carried out by your council's social services department. The purpose of the assessment is to identify any care and support needs you have.

The assessment is the first stage in the process of getting care and support services provided. The next stage is to decide whether you are eligible for any help

Who can get a care and support assessment?

Anyone who may need care and support can get an assessment.

You might need support because of:

  • old age
  • physical or learning disabilities
  • mental health problems
  • chronic illness
  • drug or alcohol dependency

You can get an assessment regardless of your income or any savings you have.

Carer's assessments

If you have an unpaid carer who looks after you in your home, they can also have their needs assessed.

Social services considers what can be done to support your carer and whether they need to have breaks from caring for you.

Find out more about a carer's assessment from Carers UK.

Asking for a care and support assessment

You can also ask your GP to make a referral for an assessment. If you are in hospital, you can ask the hospital social work team to request an assessment.

Your local council's social services department must also carry out an assessment if they become aware that you may be in need of services, even if no formal request has been made. You might be referred by another part of the council, for example the housing department.

What happens at the care and support assessment?

Usually the assessment of your care and support needs is carried out face-to-face with a social worker. It could be carried over the phone or online if you agree to it.

The assessment looks into your needs, what kind of help you would like and finds out what you can and cannot do for yourself.

Social services may speak to your doctor, occupational therapist or other medical professionals, if you agree to this.

How long does the assessment take?

There is no time limit for carrying out assessments. Social services should give you an idea how long the process usually takes.

If you are in an emergency situation, for example if you are severely disabled and homeless, you should be assessed urgently. Services can be provided while this assessment takes place.

Care and support plans

Once social services has assessed your needs and decided that you are entitled to services to meet certain needs, they draw up a care plan for you.

This plan sets out which of your needs the council will meet and how it will do this. You could be charged for some services.

Some of your needs could be met by social services making you a payment so you can buy for your own care and support.

Social services must keep you involved in the planning process. They must also try to get your agreement about how your needs will be met. You are entitled to a written copy of the assessment and the care plan.

If the council says you are not entitled to care and support services

Social services may decide that you are not entitled to care and support services because your identified needs are not high enough or are already being adequately met by friends or family.

Social services should give you:

  • a written decision containing reasons
  • information about how to challenge their decision
  • advice and information about other sources of support 

Challenging a care and support services decision

Use the council's internal complaints procedure if you are unhappy with the way the assessment has been carried out, with the outcome of the assessment or with the services provided or not provided.

Contact the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) if you are still not satisfied with the council's response.

Some decisions can also be challenged through the courts.

Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345. You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you are on certain benefits or have a low income.

Anyone can call Shelter's free national helpline on 0808 800 4444 .

For face to face help, use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser at a Shelter advice service, Citizen's Advice or law centre.

Care and support services: help and advice

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre near you.

Further information on care issues for elderly and disabled people is also available from the following organisations:

Fill out my online form.

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