Care and support guide

Assessment of your care needs

If you have difficulty looking after yourself, your local authority may be able advise you and provide you with some help. The best way to get help from your local authority is to ask for a social care 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 you fulfil certain eligibility criteria, you may receive services paid for by the council, or you may receive a care "budget" that allows you to choose and pay for your own care.

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

The local authority uses the care needs assessment to decide whether you need a community care service and, if they do, whether it can be provided by the local authority.

The assessment considers what type of services you need. This could include simple aids (such as devices to open jars and tins more easily), adaptations (such as handrails) to your home, care workers who come to your home or nursing in a care home.

Community care assessments can vary, depending on your particular needs. However, the assessment should at least provide basic information, and a care plan should be drawn up so that you know what to do and what’s happening as a result of the assessment.

Where there are disputes about the process of the assessment or the care plan, there are ways that decisions can be challenged or you can make a complaint.

If you have a friend or family member looking after you as an unpaid carer, your care needs assessment is one of the key ways that they may be able to get some respite from their caring role. Part of your care plan might include replacement care to give your carer a break. To ensure that your carer is also being supported, it’s worth asking the local authority to carry out a carer’s assessment for them.

Local authorities' duty to carry out an assessment of your needs

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 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 have not specifically requested one. Alternatively, you can contact your local social services department and ask them to arrange a care assessment.

Assessments and local authority funding

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 to provide that service.

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 what it believes is the most cost-effective one.

If the local authority will not provide any services for you, you may still want to consider funding your own services if you feel that you have identified useful services as a result of the assessment.

How assessments might differ

The way local authorities carry out a community care assessment will depend on the type of care needs you have. You might need care because you:

  • are an older person
  • have mental health problems 
  • misuse drugs or alcohol

Care assessments for older people

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. These assessments include:

  • a contact assessment – 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 – a more detailed assessment
  • a specialist assessment – where a specific need, such as a health problem, is assessed 
  • a comprehensive assessment – 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 
  • 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
  • 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:

  • a 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

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Lost French said on 23 January 2015

Assessements do not respond to needs but criteria that don t get the all pictufre...what about if you have a condition that is not seen as disability but yet you ve the same symptoms...
you get nothing. Been on crutches for 6 years. First time I was paralysed on wheel chair they told me I could walk... Other assessements I have done they never looked at my body that was in at least two separated pieces...they didn t even understood what I hadas they just looked at some of the symptoms but never the causes. It is always to denie that my case was not typical and listed....Also there are discriminations if you don t have the usual profil etc etc

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