Care and support assessments

Your council's social services department  can assess your care and support needs if you are finding it difficult to manage at home.

Care and support assessments

A care and support assessment (also called a needs assessment) is a review of your personal circumstances that identifies your need for care and support.

It's carried out by your council's social services department.

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.

The assessment is the first step toward getting care and support services provided. After this, the council decides if you are eligible for any help.

Carer's assessments

Social services can also assess the needs of  unpaid carer who looks after you in your home Social services considers what can be done to support your carer, including if they need to have breaks from caring.

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

Types of care and support services

The council may arrange or provide care and support services to allow you to live as independently as possible in your own home. This could include adaptations to your home.

Alternatives to support at home could include:

  • sheltered housing or supported housing
  • residential accommodation in a care home as a short-term option or permanently

How to get a care and support assessment

Anyone who may need care and support can apply to their local council's social service department for an assessment.

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

You might be referred by another part of the council, for example the housing department.

Your local council's social services department must carry out an assessment if they become aware that you may be in need of support services. This applies even if no formal request has been made.

Find details of help available from your local council's social services department.

How the assessment is done

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.

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

Social services draw up a care plan for you after they assess your needs and decide that you are entitled to services. This plan sets out which needs the council will meet and how it will do this.  Social services must keep you involved in the planning process and try to get your agreement.

You are entitled to a written copy of the assessment and the care plan.

You could be charged for some services. Social services may make you payments so you can buy your own care and support.

If the council refuses to help

Social services may refuse to help if your needs are not high enough or are already being 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

You can use the council's internal complaints procedure if you are unhappy with the

  • way the assessment has been carried out
  • outcome of the assessment
  • 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. You'll need a legal adviser who specialises in community care law.

You may get free legal help if you're on a low income. 

Find a legal aid adviser on

Still need help?

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

Information on care issues for elderly and disabled people is available from:

Last updated 12 Apr 2015 | © Shelter

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