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During and after assessment

If you are looking after someone, social services is legally obliged to consider a broad range of issues that can affect your ability to provide care as part of their assessment of your needs. There are guidelines that explain what is considered good practice for an assessor when they carry out a carer’s assessment.

You will be able to find contact details of your local authority by searching the directory of local carers' services.

Your caring role

During your assessment, social services must consider whether your role as a carer is sustainable. That means they must examine whether there is a possibility that you could not carry on as a carer or that you don't want to. This involves looking at:

  • The choice you want to make about caring. You should be free to choose whether or not you want to be a carer.
  • Whether there is anything about being a carer that presents problems for your health and safety.
  • Whether being a carer disrupts other commitments you have in your life, including your paid work or relationships with other people.
  • They also have to take account of your wishes as far as employment, training and leisure are concerned.

The assessment is about your needs and therefore you should:

  • Have a reasonably detailed discussion about all the matters relevant to you. The assessment should not take a "tick box" approach.
  • Have the assessment in private if you want to, and at a time and place that is convenient for you.
  • Be given relevant information, including about welfare benefits you could claim. This may involve directing you to other services.
  • Be given a chance to identify what you want, not just be told about the services that can be provided for carers. Any services should be appropriate for you and meet your individual needs.
  • Be shown flexibility and innovation in identifying services that may meet your needs.
  • Have an opportunity to give feedback about the assessment.
  • Be told about any charges before services are arranged.


Wendy has asked for a carer’s assessment to discuss her role as carer for her husband. She receives a form to complete about herself and what care she provides.

She then returns the completed form to social services hoping for further discussion. Wendy is told that she has had her carer’s assessment and that social services do not think they can help her with any particular services.

Wendy should point out that she has not had a proper assessment. Filling in a form is not sufficient and she should have the opportunity to meet face to face with a social worker and discuss her needs as a carer.

Common questions

What happens after the assessment?

You should receive a written care plan identifying your needs and any information, support or services that could be provided. You should have the choice of having direct payments rather than having a service directly arranged for you. Social services should liaise with other authorities (such as housing or a health organisation) if that is relevant for you.

What happens if my situation gets worse?

There should be provision to review your care plan but, in any case, if your situation changes you should contact social services and ask them to reassess you.

What if I am unhappy about how the assessment was done?

Contact social services to start with and explain why you are not satisfied. If that does not resolve matters you may need to make a formal complaint. For more information, please see our page on complaints.

Click on the bars below for more detailed information.

Getting services and eligibility

Social services may decide, after carrying out an assessment, that they can provide services for the person you're looking after or for yourself as a carer.

Services for the person you're looking after

The community care assessment for the person you are looking after may identify that they need services or support. The fact that they receive help (such as care workers or aids and adaptations) may make your role as a carer easier but they are regarded as services supplied to the person you're looking after, rather than to yourself.

If the person you're looking after is identified as needing services, they will have their own financial assessment to find out if they need to make a contribution. Your own finances will not normally be taken into account.

Services for you as a carer

Following a carer’s assessment, social services may agree that you need particular services to support you in your caring role. If that is the case, you will have your own financial assessment and the finances of the person you're looking after will not normally be taken into account.

When it comes to deciding whether to provide services, there is an important difference between services for the person you are looking after and services for yourself. Where a need is identified, social services has a duty to give services to the person you are looking after. A decision to give you any services as a carer is discretionary – social services has powers to give you services but not a duty to do so.

Respite care

Respite care may appear to be a service for you as a carer, but social services sees it as a community care service. So it is the person you are looking after who will have a financial assessment for respite care.

Eligibility criteria

A crucial part of your carer’s assessment will involve social services considering whether there is any risk that your caring role could break down. The risk is graded as:

  • critical
  • substantial
  • moderate
  • low


Example one

Sam is a carer for his wife but has developed his own very serious health problems and needs to go into hospital. The risk of his caring role breaking down has become critical.

Example two

Nita is a carer for her disabled son. She sometimes has difficulty fitting her work commitments around her caring role and also in arranging short breaks for herself. In this situation the risk of her caring role breaking down would probably be moderate.

Common questions

Will I get services if risk is critical or substantial?

The decision to provide services for you (as a carer) would still be discretionary, even if the risk of your caring role breaking down is critical or substantial. However, in practice, if there is a serious risk to your role as a carer the person you're looking after is likely to have a critical or substantial need for community care services. In this case, social services would have a duty to meet their needs.

If services are discretionary, am I unlikely to get help?

No, you should still expect social services to give serious consideration to any requests you make for services. Even if there is no immediate risk of your caring role breaking down, being a carer can take its toll in the long term. You could point out that if support and services are made available to you now, it could prevent your caring role breaking down in the future.

It is good practice for social services to realise that you need help to maintain your physical and psychological wellbeing.

They must consider your needs as far as employment, leisure and training are concerned.

They should have a flexible attitude about the way in which they can meet your needs. They should not have a 'one size fits all' approach, but instead take a careful look at your individual circumstances and needs.

Direct payments

A direct payment from social services is money that will be paid to you so that you can buy care services.

The aim of a direct payment is to give more flexibility in how services are provided. By getting money in lieu of social care services, people have greater choice and control over their lives, and can make their own decisions about how their care is delivered.

Decisions about direct payments

The decision to award a direct payment takes place after an assessment by social services. If the outcome of the assessment is that services should be provided you have a right to ask for a direct payment instead of having the service arranged by social services.


Janet has a community care assessment that results in a care plan indicating that she needs the help of a care worker six hours a week. Her local authority could either arrange to send their own choice of care worker or give Janet a direct payment so that she can employ a worker of her own choosing.

Choosing a direct payment

In most cases, you have a right to be offered a direct payment. The choice of a direct payment is voluntary. You cannot be forced to have a direct payment. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method of arranging and paying for care.

Some people are not allowed to have direct payments. In general, the person receiving a direct payment has to have sufficient mental capacity to consent to it. However, they may be able to have a direct payment even if they do not understand in detail what it means or they will need help from someone else to manage the payment.

Managing direct payments

When you receive a direct payment, there will be various obligations. These include:

  • Keeping records and accounting to social services for how the money is spent.
  • A person who uses their direct payment to pay for a care worker takes on the legal role of an employer and has all the legal responsibilities that go with that. There may be help available from local organisations to manage the administration involved and other responsibilities.
  • In some cases, for example, where the person receiving the direct payment lacks the mental capacity, a user-controlled trust could be set up to take over the management of the payment.

Rules about charging

If you have a carer’s assessment and you need support, social services may agree to help you with services or give you a direct payment so that you can buy in the services.

The local authority has the power to charge a fee whenever services are provided, either directly or by direct payment. Some local authorities do not make any charges for carers’ services. If they do, they would carry out a financial assessment when deciding whether or not to charge you.

In a financial assessment, local authorities must take into account that you can only be charged for services provided to you, not for services that are for the person you are looking after. Social services can ignore various costs when looking at your income. These include:

  • Any cost of paying privately for care for the person you are looking after so that, for instance, you can take a short break or have someone to take your place while you are at work.
  • The cost of any adaptations you have made to your own home, which are for the benefit of the person you are looking after.
  • Any additional costs, such as taxi fares, which are needed so that you can provide care.
  • Additional costs for cleaning and laundry provided by you for the person you are looking after.

Social services can, in theory, include Carer’s Allowance as part of your income but do not have to do so.

Your earnings should be ignored. Savings can be taken into account, but not the value of the property in which you live. If a charge is made, it should not reduce your income below a basic level equivalent to Income Support plus 25%.

Carers emergency scheme

Gordon Conochie from the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care explains the carers emergency scheme, which gives peace of mind to carers. David, who cares for his partner Martin, carries a carers emergency card. It identifies him as a carer, and who he cares for, in case of an emergency. Please note that since this video was published the above organisations have become Carers Trust and Gordon Conochie is no longer working for the organisation.

Media last reviewed: 17/04/2014

Next review due: 17/04/2016


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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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