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Community care assessments

If the person you're looking after has difficulty with their personal care, they should consider getting support from social services by having a community care assessment of their needs. This could include information, advice and services provided by the local authority. In some cases they may choose to have a direct payment so that they can purchase the services themselves.

Normally, an assessment is carried out before a service can be provided by the social services department of a local authority. However, if the services are needed urgently, the local authority can provide a service without carrying out the assessment.

The local authority uses the community care assessment to decide whether a person needs a community care service and, if they do, whether it can be provided by the local authority.You can find your local authority on GOV.UK.

The assessment considers what type of services are needed by the person being assessed. A wide range of services could be needed, from aids and adaptations in the person's own home to care workers or residential care.

Community care assessments can vary depending on the particular needs of the person you are looking after (see How assessments might differ, below). However, the assessment should at least provide certain basic information, and a care plan should be drawn up. Where there are disputes about the process of the assessment or the care plan, there are ways that decisions can be challenged. For more information on challenging decisions, see the Community care assessments complaints page in NHS Choices links.

Respite care

Respite care may be beneficial to you and the person you're looking after.

In some areas respite care is provided by your local authority as a result of you having a carer's assessment. In other areas access to respite care is provided through a community care assessment for the person you're looking after. It's best, therefore, to make sure that both of you are assessed. The local authority will consider what help you need and decide which community care services it will provide to help you.

Local authorities' duty to carry out a community care assessment

Local authorities have a duty to assess a person who may be in need of community care services. They may need services 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 community care assessment when they become aware that someone may be in need of community care services. This may mean that an assessment is offered even if you or the person you look after have not specifically requested one. Alternatively, you or the person you look after can contact your local social services department and ask them to arrange a community care assessment.

Community care assessments and carers

A community care assessment is different from the assessment you may have as a carer, which is called a carer's assessment (see the information on carers' assessments in NHS Choices links). However, if you, as a carer, have your own need for community care services because of ill health or disability, you may also be eligible for your own community care assessment.

Community care assessments and the local authority's resources

Once a local authority has established that there is a need to provide a community care service and the service user meets eligibility criteria, it has a duty to provide that service. This is different from their obligations towards carers. Although they may have a duty to carry out carers' assessments, whether or not they provide services is their decision. They do not have a duty to do so.

The local authority should not refuse to provide the service on the grounds of cost, although if there is more than one option, it is allowed to choose the most cost effective one.

How assessments might differ

The way local authorities carry out a community care assessment will depend on the type of care needs the person you are looking after has. They might need care because:

  • they are an older person,
  • they have mental health problems,
  • they have learning disabilities, or
  • they misuse drugs or alcohol.

Older people

Community care assessments for older people are carried out under the Single Assessment Process. This sets out how assessments can vary depending on the circumstances and what is appropriate. The following are types of assessment:

  • A contact assessment is the most basic assessment. In some cases this is all that is necessary. In other cases this is the first assessment and others will follow.
  • An overview assessment is a more detailed assessment.
  • A specialist assessment is where a specific need, such as a health problem, is assessed.
  • A comprehensive assessment is the most detailed level of assessment.

A comprehensive assessment under the Single Assessment Process is likely to consider:

  • personal care and hygiene,
  • disease prevention,
  • safety,
  • mental health, and
  • senses such as sight, hearing and communication.

People with mental health problems

Community care assessments for people in need of mental health services are carried out under the Care Programme Approach. The assessment will consider:

  • risk and safety,
  • psychiatric symptoms and experiences, and
  • psychological thoughts and behaviours.

People who misuse drugs or alcohol

For people who misuse drugs or alcohol, the "models of care" guidance governs the assessment process. In both cases there are three levels of assessment:

  • Screening assessment, which is an initial brief assessment.
  • Triage assessment, which is a more detailed process to determine the most appropriate treatment and risk factors. 
  • Comprehensive assessment, which is directed at those people with more complex needs.

Future changes

The government is developing proposals for a simplified Common Assessment Framework. This will unify health, social care and other support services that currently operate separately. The care programme approach will still be available as a specialist assessment where relevant.


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ditzydo said on 18 February 2014

This only offers advice/guidance for carers. What about those of us struggling to negotiate on our own behalf with the system to ensure our needs get met? Or are we all now considered to be scroungers if we are not over the age of 90 & totally demented?

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bizzywizzy said on 27 January 2014

''Although they may have a duty to carry out carers' assessments, whether or not they provide services is their decision. They do not have a duty to do so'' .Urmm odd this one.Then why are councils spending millions on carers services and don't they have a duty to assess the needs regardless? If the Carer needs assistance to enable the voluntary role to be maintained and keep the cared for safe and themselves then they DO have a duty. LA's do not have the option of choosing the cheaper service if that service falls short of meeting the needs.This is fettering the need and is unlawful.These issues can be challenged with the LG Ombudsman

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whibley said on 30 August 2012

I found this site extremely helpful, please keep it updated to make it continue to be so.
thank you

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lilypops said on 13 August 2012

Hello katymary321. I read with interest your comment about a close family member recently being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I recently lostmy Dad after caring for him with Mum for around 6 years. I began a diary when Dad was first diagnosed, and have converted this into a blog which you may (or may not!) be willing to read. It won't be an easy read as you may find that the many problems we faced could be quite depressing. However, along the way there were joyous and happy times with Dad which we will never forget.
I'm not sure which part of the UK you live in, but we are in Kent - I understand from our Admiral Nurse that care options can vary a lot from county to county. I do hope you and your family can obtain the help you need speedily and efficiently. This was sadly not our experience.
My recommendations would be for you to get a referral to an Admiral Nurse (if they are available in your area) as soon as possible. Ours is a wonderful source of information, practical advice, and a much needed shoulder to cry on at times!
The other thing I would say is that in our experience 'those who shout loudest' get the required actions. This is most definitely not normal behaviour for our family, but when you love the person suffering with Alzheimers you are often pushed to do things differently!
My blog address if you are interested is

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katymary321 said on 08 July 2012

Found this information very useful as a close family member has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and we have not been given any written information about the condition or the kind of care available. We know that social services have been contacted as I have made a referral through the community mental nurse, but anything I have found out is through pure coincidence and by doing my own research.

Thank goodness for websites like this!! Still feel cross that in this day and age the teams of people responsible for caring for our loved one are not practising joined up thinking and keeping the family informed - we are going to be the ones who look after her and surely it is in the best interests of everyone in the NHS if families can be helped to care for their loved ones as long as possible in their own homes.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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