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Practical support

How to get services

Accessing the right support services for you and the person you care for can be a challenge. Thinking about how your needs could be met and being assertive can help you get the assistance you're entitled to. 

Getting local authority services for carers

Local authorities provide a wide range of support for carers. Each local authority is responsible for examining the needs of carers who live in the area through a carers' assessment.

Carers' assessments identify services that could help you continue caring while protecting your health and wellbeing and allowing you to balance caring with other aspects of your life, such as work and family. Before the assessment, think about which services could help you. After all, you know your situation better than anyone else.

During the carers' assessment, a social worker should discuss your caring role with you and ask you about your needs as a carer. 

Local authority services for carers can be flexible. The government says that local authorities must "genuinely support the carer in their caring role or help them maintain their own health and wellbeing", but there are no rules about what form this support must take. Services don’t have to be provided directly by the local authority and you can choose to take direct payments instead to buy your own services.

Consider what you need

You may find it difficult to think of services that could help you, particularly if you’ve been caring for someone for a long time. Answering the following questions may help: 

  • How is your daily routine affected by your caring responsibilities?
  • Have there been any times in the last year when you’ve been particularly stressed? If so, what caused this stress?
  • Has caring affected your physical or mental wellbeing?
  • Are there immediate changes you would like to see in your own life?
  • Do you have unrealised dreams or long-term ambitions? Are there aspects of the future that you worry about?
  • Does your caring role affect your ability to work and your career plans?
  • Are your family relationships affected by your caring responsibilities? For example, do you have time to spend alone with a partner? Has caring had an impact on your parenting?  

Once you've considered your needs, you should understand better how your situation could be improved. For example, if caring causes you to be late for work sometimes, you may benefit from being able to pay for a taxi when you need it. If your relationship with your partner suffers because you don’t have time to be alone with them, respite care could enable you to spend a few hours a week together.

It may also help to talk to other carers to find out how other people in your situation are being helped. If you want details of your nearest carers centre, you can call the freephone Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053. Lines are open from 9am to 8pm on weekdays (except bank holidays) and 11am to 4pm on weekends.

Be assertive

Once you understand the issues you face and some of the options that might help, you'll need to be able to explain this when you ask for support to meet your needs. You may be uncomfortable asking for help or support, especially from someone who doesn’t necessarily understand your situation. Being assertive when you communicate, either when speaking or writing, can help you convey your message. 

Being assertive means asking for what you need in a positive, constructive way. This isn’t the same as being aggressive. Assertiveness is about staying calm and treating the person you’re speaking to with respect.

The way you communicate – your tone of voice and body language, for example – can affect the outcome of your conversation. 

It can help to decide what to say in advance. If you feel you're not being listened to or you're being given excuses, simply repeat yourself. You may think you sound like a broken record, but this can be an effective technique if you adopt an assertive, rather than aggressive, tone and body language.

For more information, listen to this podcast about building confidence and assertiveness.

If your situation changes

Your situation could change at any time. This could be a change in the condition of the person you care for or a change in your own life. If your needs change, ask your local authority for a reassessment so you can get appropriate services to help you.

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: 13/12/2013

Next review due: 13/12/2015

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

Confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Request a free call back or an interpreted call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

You can talk to an adviser live online or send a query by email.

Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.