If you think you need social care support, you’ll need to think about what types of support you need – be it homecare workers, equipment or respite breaks.
Your first step to getting this sort of help should be to ask your local authority social services department for an assessment of your needs. This assessment will help you decide on the type of services you may want, as well as helping the local authority understand which services you need.
Your local authority may be able to offer you some care services for free. It’s worth finding out if you can get free services from your local authority because the cost of buying care services is likely to be high if you have long-term care needs, and they could increase as you get older. For more information, read about funding your care.
How to get social services from your local authority
Local authorities have a duty to assess anyone who appears to have care and support needs. Your local authority should:
- assess your needs and give you advice, whatever your financial circumstances
- provide information about services and support options available to you in your area
- give you a carer’s assessment if you are an unpaid/family carer
The assessment by the local authority is important because it helps them work out what your difficulties are and what services will help you most. For more information, read What social care services are available?
Next steps after a care needs assessment
If your local authority decides you are eligible for social care support, they will carry out a financial assessment to determine how much you will need to pay towards your care, if anything. After this, if you are eligible for care and support, social services or an independent adviser will work with you to create a care and support plan.
Often, only minor assistance is needed – such as meals on wheels and help with washing or dressing, yet these services could make a big difference to your life.
If you feel that your needs have changed over time, you can request a review of your care plan, or a re-assessment if you were not originally eligible for care and support. Contact the social care team at your local authority to discuss this.
Your social care rights and entitlements
Under UK law, you should be looked after and treated fairly and with dignity whenever you are given social care services. This applies to everyone, regardless of where they are given care and who does the caring. This comes under the UK Human Rights Act.
Several rights may apply because of this law, including the right to:
- respect for private and family life, home and correspondence
- not be treated in an inhuman or degrading way
Other laws may also protect you from discrimination because of who you are, including some protection for carers under the rules designed to protect disabled people. For example, if you are an older person, this should not stop you from having treatment similar to that which a younger person would be given.
In most cases, you shouldn’t have to actively exert your rights about the care you receive. However, if you feel you are being unjustly treated in breach of your rights, you may want to take action. You can do this by telling someone you trust, seeking help from an advocacy service, or contacting the local authority team in charge of "safeguarding". Find out about safeguarding on the Care Quality Commission website.
Find out how the Equality Act and the Mental Capacity Act protect your rights to be treated fairly, and make your own decisions wherever possible.
When things go wrong with social care
At times, things may go wrong with your care. You may find that:
- you disagree with a decision about your care
- you disagree with the outcome of an assessment
- you believe standards or quality of care have been poor
- you believe the amount of care you have got has not been enough
- you believe the costs of care are unfair
- you feel that staff have behaved badly or inappropriately
However, you should be actively involved in the care and support process – for example, during the assessment and in developing the care and support plan. The council must attempt to reasonably agree any course of action with you and anyone else you request. You should make the council aware of anything that you are not happy with during these discussions.
Give feedback on care services
If you have been using homecare services, a care home or a nursing home, you can leave good or negative feedback on their services. These comments will be publicly available on the service’s online profile and they will be asked to publicly respond to the comments.
However, if that doesn’t get a result, you may wish to make a formal complaint. Whoever is providing your care services will, by law, have a complaints procedure available. This should be your first step in trying to address what has gone wrong. Friends and relatives may be able to help you with a complaint, as can the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and many other charities.
If you have been seriously abused, you should call the police. You may want to speak with the "safeguarding" team at your local authority.
If your complaint is about a private or voluntary care provider, contact the Care Quality Commission.
For more information, find out how to make a complaint.