If you have care and support needs and find it difficult to look after yourself, your local authority may be able to advise you and provide you with some help.
The best way to get help from your local authority is to ask for a care and support needs assessment. You can do this by contacting the local authority adult social services department.
When you get assessed by the local authority, as a minimum you may be given information and signposting to other services, and ways that you might find funding to pay for them. However, if your needs meet the national eligibility criteria, your local authority will have to meet these needs.
The local authority will involve you throughout the assessment to identify what your needs are and how these impact on your wellbeing. They will also discuss with you how you wish to live your life and whether there are certain aims you would like to achieve but you are unable to do so because of your care and support needs.
The assessment will start to consider how your care needs might be met. This could include identifying how preventative services like simple aids (such as devices to open jars and tins more easily), adaptations to your home (such as handrails) or information about support available in the community might meet your need. It will also identify if you have a higher level of need where you may need help in your own home or care in a care home.
The assessment should be carried out in a way that ensures your involvement and that takes the right amount of time to capture all of your needs.
If you have a friend or family member looking after you as an unpaid carer, they can have a carer’s assessment to see if they need support to carry on their caring role.
The local authority must give you a copy of your needs assessment or carer’s assessment.
What are the national eligibility criteria for care and support?
The eligibility threshold for adults with care and support needs is based on identifying how a person’s needs affect their ability to achieve relevant outcomes, and how this impacts on their wellbeing.
Local authorities must consider whether the person’s needs:
- arise from or are related to a physical or mental impairment or illness
- make them unable to achieve two or more specified outcomes
- as a result of being unable to meet these outcomes, there is likely to be a significant impact on the adult’s wellbeing
An adult’s needs are only eligible where they meet all three of these conditions.
The specified outcomes measured include:
- managing and maintaining nutrition, such as being able to prepare and eat food and drink
- maintaining personal hygiene, such as being able to wash themselves and their clothes
- managing toilet needs
- being able to dress appropriately, for example during cold weather
- being able to move around the home safely, including accessing the home from outside
- keeping the home sufficiently clean and safe
- being able to develop and maintain family or other personal relationships, in order to avoid loneliness or isolation
- accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering, including physical access
- being able to safely use necessary facilities or services in the local community including public transport and recreational facilities or services
- carrying out any caring responsibilities, such as for a child
Local authorities do not have responsibility for providing NHS services such as patient transport, but they should consider needs for support when the adult is attending healthcare appointments.
Local authorities' duty to carry out a needs assessment
Local authorities have a duty to assess a person who appears to need care and support. They may need care and support because of serious illness, physical disability, learning disability, mental health problems or frailty because of old age.
The local authority is obliged to carry out a needs assessment when they become aware that someone may be in need of care and support.
This may mean that an assessment is offered even if it has not been specifically requested. Alternatively, you can contact your local social services department and ask them to arrange a needs assessment.
Normally, an assessment is carried out before a service can be provided by the social services department of a local authority. If you need care urgently, the local authority may be able to meet these needs without carrying out the assessment.
Local authorities' duty to carry out a carer’s assessment
Local authorities have a duty to carry out a carer’s assessment where a carer appears to need support.
The carer’s assessment will consider the carer’s need for support and whether they can continue to care without help.
The assessment can be offered even if the carer has not asked for one.
Needs assessments and local authority funding
Once a local authority has established that a person has needs that meet the national eligibility criteria, it has to make sure that these needs are met. The first step will be to draw up a care and support plan, or in the case of a carer with eligible needs, a support plan.
If you have eligible needs, the local authority will check that you normally live in their area. Social care is not free and you may have to contribute towards the cost of meeting your needs. Local authorities will do an assessment to see if you have to contribute and how much that would be.
The local authority should not refuse to meet eligible needs on the grounds of cost, although if there is more than one option, it is allowed to choose what it believes is the most cost effective one.
If your needs do not meet the national eligibility criteria, the local authority still has to give you information and advice on what support might be available in the community to support you.
Alternatively, you may want to consider funding your own care and support to help with the needs identified as a result of the assessment.
If you disagree with your needs assessment or the care and support plan, there are ways that decisions can be challenged or you can make a complaint.