Your guide to care and support

Assessing your care and support needs

If you have care and support needs and find it difficult to look after yourself, your local authority may be able to advise you and provide help.

The best way to get help from your local authority is to ask for a needs assessment.

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 your needs meet the national eligibility criteria, your local authority will have to meet these needs.

The local authority will involve you throughout the assessment to identify what your needs are and how these affect your wellbeing. They will also discuss with you how you wish to live your life, and whether there are certain aims you would like to achieve but are unable to because of your care and support needs.

The assessment will start to consider how your care needs might be met. This may involve identifying how preventative services might help. These could include:

  • simple aids, such as devices to open jars and tins more easily
  • adaptations to your home, such as handrails
  • information about support available in the community

The assessment will also identify if you have a higher level of need, where you may need help in your own home or care in a care home.

The assessment should involve you and take sufficient time to capture all your needs.

If you have a friend or family member looking after you as an unpaid carer, they can have a carer's assessment to see if they need support.

The local authority must give you a copy of your needs assessment or carer's assessment.

What are the national eligibility criteria for care and support?

The eligibility threshold for adults with care and support needs is based on identifying how a person's needs impact their ability to achieve relevant outcomes, and how this affects their wellbeing.

Local authorities must consider whether your needs:

  • arise from or are related to a physical or mental impairment or illness
  • make you unable to achieve two or more specified outcomes
  • significantly affect your wellbeing

An adult's needs are only eligible where they meet all three of these conditions. The specified outcomes measured include being able to:

  • prepare and eat food and drink
  • maintain personal hygiene, such as being able to wash yourself and your clothes
  • use the toilet
  • dress appropriately – for example, during cold weather
  • move around your home safely, including getting into it from outside
  • keep your home clean and safe
  • keep in touch with friends and family to avoid loneliness or isolation
  • access and engage in work, training, education or volunteering, including physical access
  • safely use necessary facilities or services in the local community, including public transport and recreational facilities
  • carry out any caring responsibilities, such as for a child

Local authorities are not responsible for providing NHS services such as patient transport, but they should consider needs for support when you attend healthcare appointments.

Local authorities' duty to carry out a needs assessment

Local authorities have a duty to assess you if you seem to need care and support. Anyone may be entitled to a needs assessment to consider if they are eligible for care and support.

You may need care and support if you have trouble looking after yourself. This may be because of:

  • disability
  • a mental health illness
  • frailty because of ill health

You may be offered an assessment even if you have not specifically requested it, or you can contact your local social services department and ask them to arrange one.

Normally, an assessment is carried out before a service can be provided by the social services department of a local authority. If you need care urgently, the local authority may be able to meet these needs without carrying out the assessment.

Local authorities' duty to carry out a carer's assessment

Local authorities have a duty to carry out a carer's assessment where a carer seems to need support.

The carer's assessment will consider the carer's need for support and whether they can continue to care without help. The assessment can be offered even if the carer has not asked for one.

Needs assessments and local authority funding

Once a local authority has established that your needs meet the national eligibility criteria, it must make sure these needs are met. The first step will be to draw up a care and support plan or, in the case of a carer with eligible needs, a support plan.

If you have eligible needs, the local authority will check that you normally live in its area. Social care is not free, and you may have to contribute towards the cost. Local authorities will do an assessment to see if and how much you have to contribute.

The local authority should not refuse to meet eligible needs on the grounds of cost. However, if there's more than one option, it is allowed to choose the one it believes to be most cost-effective.

If your needs do not meet the national eligibility criteria, the local authority must still give you information and advice on what support might be available in the community.

Alternatively, you may want to consider funding your own care and support to help with the needs identified as a result of the assessment.

If you disagree with your needs assessment or the care and support plan, there are ways that decisions can be challenged or you can make a complaint.

Page last reviewed: 12/01/2018
Next review due: 12/01/2021