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Carer's assessments

Thanks to the Care Act 2014, many carers in England are now legally entitled to receive support from their local authority. The Act makes clear that supporting carers is just as important as supporting the people they care for. It recognises that being a carer for someone can affect your own life too, including your physical and mental health, your relationships with others, your ability to work and how much leisure time you are able to have.

All carers now have the right to receive a free carer’s assessment to evaluate what their needs are. They also have the right for any ‘eligible needs’ that are identified during this assessment to be met by support provided by the local authority.

A carer’s assessment is an evaluation of your needs as a carer, conducted by the local authority. It is completely separate from any assessments they will conduct for the person you care for, though for convenience it may be conducted at the same time.

A carer’s assessment should consider all your needs as a carer, not just in relation to the things you already do but also the things that you would like to be able to do. Wellbeing should be at the heart of the carer’s assessment. The assessment considers the following areas, all of which are treated as being of equal importance:

  • Your emotional, physical and mental health.
  • Your involvement in work, education, training and leisure.
  • Your relationships and social integration.
  • Your personal dignity.
  • Your ability to stay free from abuse and neglect.
  • How much control you have over your daily life.
  • Your personal finances.
  • Your living conditions.

If you are aged over 18 and you care for another adult, you are very likely to be eligible for a carer’s assessment. The local authority must offer an assessment to all carers who they think could potentially need support, either now or in the future.

You can have an assessment regardless of the following:

  • How much or what type of care you provide.
  • Your financial situation.
  • Whether the person you care for is receiving any help from the local authority.
  • Whether you live with the person you care for.
  • Whether you care full- or part-time.
  • Whether the person you care for lives in the same local authority as you.

If you share the caring responsibilities with someone else, then you are both entitled to an assessment.

It is also worth bearing in mind that carer’s assessments are voluntary so you do not have to have one if you do not want one.

The best place to start is by contacting the local authority. Get in touch with their adult social services department by phone, post or email and ask for a carer’s assessment.

If you live in a different local authority to the person you care for, it will be their council that supports you rather than your own, so it should be them you get in touch with.

If you don’t know which local authority they come under, you can find out on the GOV.UK website.

The process will differ slightly from council to council. Some local authorities will ask you to complete an online self-assessment form, which they may then discuss with you in a follow-up meeting. Some will do the assessment by phone or face-to-face instead. If you would struggle with the format they have suggested, then you can request to have the assessment in a different format.

The assessment will usually be conducted by a staff member from the local authority. Sometimes they will ask another organisation, such as a carers’ charity, to conduct the assessment for them but the responsibility for the final decision still rests with the council.

You can choose to bring someone with you if you like. This could be a carer, friend or relative, or it could be an independent professional advocate. In some cases, the local authority has a duty to find an independent advocate for you. If you are not eligible for this, you may still be able to receive support from a community advocate instead. For further information, take a look at our guide 'Getting an independent advocate'.

The assessment is about you, not the person you care for. They are not looking for how much care you carry out but for how being a carer impacts you. They will ask questions that help them to get an idea of what your needs are, how your caring role affects you on a day-to-day basis, how well you are managing with being a carer, what your wider living situation is like and what goals you would like to achieve. They will discuss what support would be helpful for you so that you can manage better with your caring role. Be sure to mention everything that you think is relevant and be as honest as you can so that you get all the support you need.

To receive support, the local authority must think you have what they call ‘eligible needs’. This means you have met the nationally-agreed eligibility criteria.

To have eligible needs, you must be providing necessary care and support. In addition, your caring responsibilities must be having a significant impact on your physical or mental health, or may do in the future, meaning that you are not able to do at least one of the following:

  • Care for other people who need your support, including children.
  • Make and eat healthy, balanced meals for yourself.
  • Keep up with your housework and household maintenance.
  • Maintain good relationships with other people including having the time to socialise with friends.
  • Take part in work, education, training or volunteering if you want to.
  • Access necessary facilities and services in the local community including engaging in recreational activities.

You are assessed as not being able to do these things if you need any help with them, you experience distress, pain or anxiety when you try to do them, or if you are a risk to yourself or someone else when you do them.

The local authority must also be sure that it is you providing necessary care that has created these needs.

The local authority will decide, based on the criteria above, whether you have eligible needs or not. You should hear back relatively quickly, often within a week. They will give you a written explanation of their decision.

If they decide you do not have eligible needs, they should still give you advice about how to prevent you developing these needs in the future and about free community support that might help you. This advice should be tailored to your own particular situation. If they do not provide this advice, you can ask for it.

If the council decides that you do have eligible needs, then it must meet those needs for you. This could be by providing you with support directly or by giving you the details of other organisations that can meet your needs.

They will put together a support plan for you. This is an agreement between you and the local authority that details what it thinks your needs are and how it will meet them. You should be involved in putting this plan together, along with anyone else you would like to take part, including the person you care for if you wish. Once this has been agreed, you should be provided with a copy of the support plan.

In the weeks after your support plan is agreed, it should be reviewed by the local authority to make sure it is working well. This review will usually happen between six and eight weeks later, although some local authorities wait for 12 weeks to ensure there is enough time to see whether it is working. The plan will then be reviewed again at least once a year. If your circumstances change, for instance your health deteriorates or you get a job, then you can ask for it to be reviewed again sooner.

This depends a great deal on what it identifies your needs to be, as the services provided will be tailored to meet those needs.

Some examples of the sort of things it could provide include:

  • Respite care to enable you to have a break.
  • Help with personal care for the person you look after.
  • A cleaner or gardener to assist with household tasks.
  • Membership of a local gym to help with your stress and fitness levels.
  • Training to support you in your caring role, such as a manual handling course.
  • Help with transport.
  • A referral to a local support group for carers.
  • Technology to help you such as a mobile phone or computer.
  • Advice about other services and financial support you are entitled to such as benefits.

The local authority may provide these services themselves directly or arrange for another organisation to provide them instead. In some cases, you may able to choose the organisation you want to provide them yourself.

Local authorities are legally allowed to charge carers for the services they provide to them, but most do not. Many recognise that unpaid carers are doing an incredible role that has a lot of economic and social benefits.

If they do charge for services, it is likely they will want to know about your financial situation to see whether or not you can afford to pay for them. They may carry out a full financial assessment, also known as a ‘means test’, to consider your income, savings and capital. Or alternatively they may decide to only do a ‘light touch’ assessment instead. This is usually if they think it is clear from the information they already have that you can either definitely afford the services or definitely not afford them. If you are unhappy with the light touch assessment and want them to do a full assessment instead, they must do this if you ask them to.

The local authority must not charge more than you can pay for the services, so if you cannot afford them, you should ask for the situation to be reviewed again.

It is also worth knowing that you can only be charged for services that you receive yourself. You cannot be charged for services that are provided for the person you care for, and they cannot be charged for services that are provided for you.

If the local authority decides they will support your needs financially, then you can get a personal budget and direct payments from the local authority in order to purchase services. To find out more about how this works, take a look at our guide ‘Personal budgets and direct payments’.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

Online support
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