If you provide care and support to an adult friend or family member, you may be eligible for support from your local council.
This support could include being offered money to pay for things that make caring easier. Or the local authority might offer practical support, such as arranging for someone to step in when you need a short break. It could also put you in touch with local support groups so you have people to talk to.
Currently, if you're looking after someone on a "regular" and "substantial" basis, you are entitled to have an assessment of your own needs. What the terms regular and substantial means depends on your circumstances, what caring activities you do, and the effect it has on your life. This means it is not just a question of how many hours a week you spend looking after someone, but also the overall impact being a carer has on your life.
New laws are changing this. The Care Act 2014 makes carer's assessments more widely available to people in caring role from April 2015. For more information, read about the Care Act changes for carers.
From April 2015, local authorities have a legal duty to assess any carer who requests one or who appears to need support.
If you are a carer and you need some support, get in touch with the council covering the area where the person you care for lives. The council will be able to give you information and advice about how the assessment will work.
A carer’s assessment is a discussion between you and a trained person either from the council or another organisation that the council works.
The assessment will consider the impact the care and support you provide is having on your own wellbeing, as well as important aspects of the rest of your life, including the things you want to achieve day-to-day. It must also consider other important issues, such as whether you are able or willing to carry on caring, whether you work or want to work, and whether you want to study or do more socially.
The assessment could be done face-to-face, over the telephone or online. The council will use the assessment to identify your support needs, and to discuss how these could be met. This might mean that the council will give you help or put you in touch with other organisations, such as local charities, that you can talk to.
Assessments of carer's needs are carried out slightly differently in some circumstances. Read about:
Eligibility for care and support services
Currently, 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:
The assessment will also consider whether or not the carer works or wishes to work and whether or not the carer is undertaking or wishes to undertake education, training or leisure activity, and the impact that their caring role might have on these commitments or aspirations.
From April 2015, this will change and a carer’s assessment will look at the different ways caring affects your life, and work out how you can carry on doing the things that are important to you and your family. It will cover your caring role, your feelings about caring, your physical, mental and emotional health, and how caring affects your work, leisure, education, wider family and relationships.
Your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing will be at the heart of this assessment. This means that you will be able to tell the council how caring for someone is affecting your life and what you want to be able to do in your day-to-day life.
When the assessment is complete, the local authority will decide whether your needs are "eligible" for support from the local authority. After the assessment, your council will write to you about their decision and give you reasons to explain what they have decided.
If you have eligible needs, your council will contact you to discuss what help might be available. This will be based on the information you gave them during your assessment.
If you do not have needs that are eligible, your council will give you information and advice, including what local care and support is available. This could include, for example, help from local voluntary organisations.
Before your carer’s assessment
If you have arranged to have a carer's assessment of your needs, give yourself plenty of time to think about your role as a carer and note your thoughts down. You might consider:
- whether you want to continue being a carer
- if you were prepared to continue, what changes would make your life easier
- if there is any risk that you will not be able to continue as a carer without support
- whether you have any physical or mental health problems, including stress or depression, which make your role as a carer more difficult
- whether being a carer affects your relationships with other people, including family and friends
- if you are in paid work, whether being a carer causes problems at your work (such as often being late)
- if you like more time to yourself so that you can have a rest or enjoy some leisure activity
- if you like to do some training, voluntary work or paid work
Your decision to be a carer
When your carer’s assessment is done, no assumptions should be made about your willingness to be a carer. This can be a very sensitive area, because many of us feel that we have a duty to those we care for. We sometimes rule out other options because we feel we have no choice. You have the right to choose:
- whether to be a carer at all
- how much care you are willing to provide
- the type of care you are willing to provide
There may be some parts of the role that you find more difficult than others.
Take a step back and think about your role as a carer. This can be useful in the discussion you have during a carer's assessment. You may wish to ask in advance for the assessment to happen in private, so that you can speak freely.
It is vital that it considers whether the role of a carer is affecting your health or safety.
Carers sometimes take on physical tasks, such as lifting and carrying, which can cause long-term health problems. Others can find that the stress of the role can lead to depression or other mental health problems. In some cases, safety can be an issue; for instance, because of the behaviour of the person they look after.
During your assessment, explain any mental or physical health problems you are experiencing. Social services will consider all aspects of your health and safety, including caring tasks that might put your health or wellbeing at risk.
Some of the things you might need help with include:
- support to ensure you’re able to attend any medical appointments
- support if you need to go into hospital for an operation (including recovery after surgery) that you might have been putting off because of your caring commitment.
- training for you, such as safely lifting
A carer's assessment should also look at your own interests and commitments to see if and how they are disrupted by your role as a carer. If they are disrupted, a social worker could discuss with you whether some support could improve matters for you.
The assessment should look at:
- parenting and childcare
- marriage or other such relationships
- friendships and community role
- paid employment or voluntary work
- interests, sport, leisure and hobbies
- time for yourself
One of the most important parts of your carer's assessment will be a discussion about your wishes concerning paid work, training or leisure activities.
The local authority must consider the support you may need if you want to stay in your paid job or return to paid work. They must also consider the support you may need if you want to continue or start studying or training.
During and after a carer’s assessment
If you are looking after someone, the local authority will consider a broad range of issues that can affect your ability to provide care as part of their assessment of your needs.
When assessing your needs, social services must consider whether your role as a carer is sustainable. The assessment is about your needs and therefore you should:
- have a reasonably detailed discussion about all the matters relevant to you
- have the assessment in private if you want to, at a convenient time and place for you
- get relevant information, including about welfare benefits you could claim and details of other services
- have a chance to identify the outcomes that you want; any services should be appropriate for you and meet your needs
- be given 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
Support planning for carers
After your assessment, you and the local authority will agree a support plan, which sets out how your needs will be met. This might include help with housework, buying a laptop to keep in touch with family and friends, or becoming a member of a gym so you can look after their own health.
It may be that the best way to meet a carer’s needs is to provide care and support directly to the person that they care for – for example, by providing replacement care to allow the carer to take a break. It is possible to do this as long as the person needing care agrees.
Your support plan should consider whether your situation is likely to change, but you may want to contact social services and ask them to reassess you if this happens.
Now read about the services that your local authority can provide after a carer’s assessment as well as support planning and how care and support is paid for.
Other kinds of assessments of carers
Parent carer assessments
If you are a parent of a disabled child aged under 18, your child can be assessed by the local authority under law relating to the needs of children in the Children and Families Act 2014.
You will also be assessed as part of that process because social services will look at the needs of the family as a whole. This is often referred to as a "holistic" assessment.
The assessment should take into account detailed information about your family, including:
- the family’s background and culture
- your own views and preferences
- the needs of any other children you have
The assessment is not a test of your parenting skills, but should be a sensitive look at any difficulties the family has as a whole, with a view to considering what support or services are needed.
A care plan should be drawn up that would include services to benefit both you and your disabled child. For example, there could be adaptations to the home, help with bathing or regular respite breaks to ensure you get the rest you need.
You could also choose to have a direct payment so that you can buy in your own services for your child.
Carer's assessments and hospital discharge
You might have a carer's assessment or a review of your support plan if the person you care for has been in hospital and is being discharged.
Find out about the hospital discharge process.
Carer's assessments and NHS continuing care
As well as care and support organised by the council, some people are also eligible to receive help from the NHS. This help may be a nursing service for people who are ill or recovering at home after leaving hospital. It could include things like changing the dressings on wounds or giving medication.
If you are eligible for this kind of help, a health professional such as your GP or community nurse should be able to tell you.
In exceptional circumstances, where an adult has a complex medical condition and substantial ongoing care needs, the NHS provides a service called NHS continuing healthcare. NHS continuing healthcare provides care and support in a person’s home, care home or hospice.
If you look after someone who qualifies, you may want to find out more about NHS continuing care.