If you need help with everyday tasks, your local authority has a legal duty to carry out an assessment to find out what help you need. Many people are put off by the idea of an assessment, but it’s not something you should worry about. A care needs assessment is simply a straightforward way of working out your individual care needs so that your local authority or trust can decide the best way to help you.
The 2014 Care Act rules allow you to take the lead in explaining what care and support you need to make life easier for you. For example, it could be important to you to stay in your home but you may need extra help to do this. The assessment will also look at the impact on other areas of your life and how this affects your general well-being.
The assessment will be carried out by a care specialist on behalf of the local authority or trust. This could be an occupational therapist or a social worker, for example. Together you will explore how difficult you find it to carry out activities in your everyday life, such as washing and dressing, managing your toilet needs or living safely in your home. These are known as care outcomes.
If someone already helps you with these activities, this still counts as a need you have, so you should make sure that the assessor knows you find it hard to carry out these tasks either with or without help. They need to know how many care outcomes you are unable to achieve to work out whether you are eligible for support.
Once your care needs assessment has been completed, your local authority or trust will decide what care services it can provide or arrange for you. This decision is made by comparing your care needs with a set of nationally agreed criteria which all local authorities must use. The assessor must also take into account how these needs affect your general well-being when they decide if you need support.
You will qualify for care and support if you meet the following criteria:
- You have a mental or physical need or you are suffering from an illness.
- You are unable to achieve two or more of the care outcomes. These are things like whether you need help to prepare and consume food and drink, or to get washed and dressed.
- There is a significant impact on your well-being because you’re not getting the help you need.
You can find out about the eligibility criteria on your local authority’s website. Care services include:
- home care help with things like cleaning and shopping
- disability equipment and adaptations to your home
- day centres to give you or the person who cares for you a break
- day care for your child if either you or they have a disability
- residential care or nursing homes
Once your care and support plan has been agreed, you have a right to ask for a review at any time if you think your care needs or your financial situation has changed. If you move outside your local area, both local authorities must work together to make sure that you will still receive the support you need in your new home. It is up to you to let the new local authority know that you’re moving to their area so they can get a copy of your needs assessment and care and support plan. If you have a carer the local authority in the new area must support them too if they are coming with you.
In some cases, a local authority can begin providing services before a care-needs assessment has been carried out if they believe support is needed urgently. If your local authority thinks that you don’t qualify for support because your care needs aren’t great enough, they must still give you information and advice about where else you can get help, for example through charities or other local organisations.
If you don’t agree with the outcome of the care needs assessment, your first step is to ask your local authority for a full written explanation of their assessment and how they came to their decision. Every social services department has a complaints procedure, and must tell you how to use it.
Once your local authority or trust has carried out your care needs assessment and worked out what care services you need, they’ll carry out a financial assessment. This is called a ‘means test’. This will work out if you need to contribute towards the cost of your care, and whether the local authority will pay for all or some of your care costs. Your local authority will only pay for community care services and can’t provide nursing care. However, some disabilities, injuries, long-term conditions or complex medical problems can mean you are eligible for NHS Continuing Care funding for your long-term care.