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Practical support

  • Overview

Getting support

You or the person you care for may be eligible for several types of support from social services.

Before the social services department can assist you, it must carry out an assessment of what your care needs are. This can include:

  • community care assessment for the adult you're looking after if they are disabled, frail because of age, or have a long-term illness. If you're a disabled carer, you may be eligible for your own community care assessment.
  • Assessments for children, which can be done for a child who is disabled or who can be described as a child in need.
  • carer's assessment, which is an assessment of your own needs as a carer.

In most cases, obtaining services for the person you're looking after means that they will need a community care assessment. Your own carer's assessment may be taken into account as part of the process of establishing their needs.

Once the assessment has been completed, the local authority has to make a decision about whether or not it will provide or arrange services for you. It does this by comparing your assessed care needs with eligibility criteria that it has set for community care services. You can find contact details for your local authority by using "Services near you" (above right).

There are no national eligibility criteria for community care services. Each local authority sets its own criteria, so there are variations around the country. Contact your local authority to find out more.

Duties and powers

Social services has a legal duty to assess both you as a carer and the person you are looking after. However, when it comes to providing services, the responsibility of social services will differ. If social services agrees that the needs of the person you are looking after are sufficiently high, it has a duty to provide services to meet those needs. However, it only has a "power" to provide services to carers.


Once an assessment has established a need for help, local authorities may consider providing one or more of a wide variety of services, including:

  • Care at home, such as help from care workers, aids and equipment, laundry services or telecare.
  • Care away from home, which could include residential care on a permanent or temporary basis. It could also include respite care, day centres or short stays in care for rehabilitation.
  • Housing, which could include major adaptations to a home, minor works or disabled parking bays.

You and the person you're looking after can expect social services to liaise with other parts of the local authority or the NHS to ensure that appropriate services are provided.

How services will be paid for

Whether you or the person you're looking after will have to pay for the service will depend on what that service is. For example:

  • Some services, such as NHS continuing care or intermediate care, will be paid for by the NHS and are therefore free of charge.
  • Services provided for some people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act will be free of charge.
  • There are certain services that social services have to provide for free.
  • There may be grants available, such as disabled facilities grants.
  • In other cases, social services will do a financial assessment to calculate whether you or the person you're looking after have to make any financial contribution. The way in which the financial assessment is carried out depends on whether the care to be provided is residential or care at home.

If the person you're looking after is offered community care services, the financial assessment will normally only take their own income and savings into account. If you're offered carer's services, it will be your income and savings that are taken into account.

It is sometimes possible to obtain services, or the funding for them, from other sources, for example from the Social Fund or charities such as the Family Fund.

Choosing services or a direct payment to buy the service

You or the person you are looking after will normally be able to choose whether to ask social services to arrange a specific service for you, or have a direct payment so you can buy in the service yourself.

There are advantages and disadvantages of receiving a direct payment that should be considered before you or the person you are looking after makes a decision.

Place of residence

The right to have some community care services provided to you or the person you look after may depend on whether you're regarded as "ordinarily resident" in an area. This does not apply to all services.

You will be ordinarily resident in an area if you are settled there despite temporary absences, but you can be considered settled after a short period of time. It depends on your individual circumstances.

The following are some of the situations where the question of ordinary residence, and which local authority is responsible, may be relevant.

Carer's assessments

If you live in a different local authority area from the person you look after, you may not know which local authority should carry out your carer's assessment. The guidance local authorities have to follow about assessments states that it should be the authority in which the disabled person lives that carries out the assessment and is responsible for the provision of any services for you as a carer.

Residential care

The question of ordinary residence is important when a person goes into residential care. If funding for the placement is provided by the local authority, the person who is in care is regarded as continuing to be ordinarily resident in the area in which they lived before they moved to residential care.


Martha lived in East Sussex. When she needed residential care she received help with the fees from her local authority, which found a suitable home for her in Kent. Despite the move, she continued to be considered "ordinarily resident" in East Sussex and the responsibility of that local authority.

This principle also applies to "self-funders" (people who pay for their own care) if their local authority helped to arrange the placement.

If a local authority is not involved in the placement, the person going into residential care would become ordinarily resident in the area where the care home is located.

When a person goes into residential care outside the area they're ordinarily resident in, but then leaves residential care to live more independently in a new area, there can be confusion about which local authority should take responsibility for any services they need.

Ordinary residence and children

The normal rule is that children are presumed to be ordinarily resident wherever their parents are. However, local authorities have a legal obligation to children in need "within their area". In some cases this may mean that a child is considered ordinarily resident in one local authority's area, but lives in another local authority's area. Local authorities should liaise with each other to resolve any problems this may cause.

Emergencies or urgent needs

Local authorities have some responsibilities to people who are in urgent need in their area, even if they're not ordinarily resident there. This could be relevant, for example, if the person you're looking after comes to stay with you on a temporary basis and has an urgent need for services. It may be possible to argue that your own local authority could assist them, even if they're not ordinarily resident in that area.

Disputes between local authorities

If local authorities disagree about which authority should take responsibility, there is a procedure that allows central government to resolve the dispute. This mainly relates to disputes about residential placements. If you disagree with a decision made by a local authority or there is a dispute between local authorities which affects you, you may need to use the statutory complaints system or get legal advice.


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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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Services near you

Media last reviewed: 11/06/2014

Next review due: 11/06/2016

Carers' assessments

Find out if you qualify for support from social services through a carer's assessment

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