Getting a social care needs assessment

This information applies to England and Wales.

If you have care needs that relate to an impairment or condition, you might be entitled to social care support. This is practical support so your needs are met.

A care need is an everyday task that you cannot do yourself or something you need support to do. This includes being able to do the task consistently and safely.

Care needs: looking at outcomes

Care needs can include:

  • washing yourself and getting dressed
  • going to the toilet
  • preparing and eating food
  • household tasks
  • getting out and about
  • developing and maintaining personal relationships
  • accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering

These are often known as outcomes. A needs assessment looks at how these outcomes can be met.

If you struggle with 2 or more outcomes, you can request a needs assessment to see what support is available.

If you need support to do your job, Access to Work could fund this rather than social care.

Access to Work grant scheme

If your health is complex

If you’re disabled and have a primary health need, you could be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare (CHC). This is funding from the NHS to pay for the medical care and support you need.

You do not pay anything towards continuing healthcare. It does not affect benefits or pension payments.

NHS continuing healthcare (CHC)

Support with the needs assessment

If you need support with the needs assessment process, an advocate can:

  • help you apply for a needs assessment
  • attend your needs assessment
  • talk on your behalf
  • explain the care package and how to get the social care support awarded

Advocates for social care assessments and appeals

Warning Unpaid carers can have a carer’s assessment

Anyone who provides you with unpaid care can be involved. They can have their own assessment to look at their needs as a carer. You can have a carer’s assessment at the same time as a social care needs assessment. Unpaid carers can be friends or family, including young people. They may be entitled to support so that they can continue caring for you.

Carer’s assessment

Types of social care support

A needs assessment will look at what support you need. Social care support can include:

Social care needs assessment

A social worker will arrange the care needs assessment. It will look at your needs and if you require support to meet these needs. This might be called a Care Act assessment.

You do not pay for a needs assessment. There are 6 stages:

  1. Ask for a needs assessment.
  2. Prepare for your needs assessment.
  3. Have the needs assessment in a place that’s accessible to you.
  4. Receive a report explaining the results and if you get support.
  5. If you do qualify for support, have a financial assessment.
  6. Receive your care package that says what support you get and how to access it.

Ask for a needs assessment

Contact your local authority or council and ask for a social care needs assessment. You can call them or complete an online form.

Contact your local authority or council (GOV.UK)

You might have to search for “needs assessment” on your local authority’s website.

If it’s for a child, the parent can ask for a referral for a needs assessment.

If you’re an adult, you would refer yourself.

You can ask someone else to do it for you, but they need your permission. This can be a friend, family member of health care professional.

When you have contacted your local authority, you should have a needs assessment within 4 to 6 weeks, but it can be longer. Your local authority will prioritise people with higher care needs, but waiting times can vary depending on your local authority.

Warning If you’re in hospital

You should be given a needs assessment automatically if:

  • you’re in hospital and need short-term social care to go home
  • you have social care support but have been in hospital for over 28 days or
  • your needs have changed in hospital

If you had social care support before being in hospital, this stops when you’ve been in hospital for 28 days.

The support you need is called a care package. A care package would need to be in place in before you’re discharged from hospital.

If you need short-term social care support following a hospital stay, this is known as aftercare or reablement.

After 6 weeks of aftercare you will be reassessed and:

  • your care package will end or
  • you will move onto long-term social care

Care after illness or hospital discharge (reablement) (NHS)

Preparing for your needs assessment

Before your needs assessment, you can:

  • ask for the questions in advance
  • think about your social care needs
  • research what types of social care are available and how they are funded
  • ask someone to be there during your needs assessment
  • make sure the assessment is accessible to you

Having an accessible assessment

Thinking about your needs

You can write down what you need support with. You might want to think about:

  • What daily tasks do I struggle with or cannot do?
  • Can I do the task consistently and safely?
  • If I did a task without support, what could happen?
  • What impact would it have if my needs were met?
  • How would I like my social care needs to be met?
  • What support do I have? Can they continue to give me this support?
  • Do I want someone at my needs assessment?

If the assessment is for your child, they will look at age-appropriate needs. If a non-disabled child of the same age does not have that need, you might get social care support for it.

For example, if your child is 15 and still needs support getting dressed, this counts as a social care need. This is because a non-disabled person aged 15 would not need that support.

Types of social care and funding

If you need help at home from a paid carer, a care agency can provide this, or you can have funding to manage your own care. You can receive money through:

  • direct payments
  • a personal care budget
  • NHS continuing health care

The criteria for funding depend on your local authority.

Local authority funding for care costs – do you qualify? (MoneyHelper)

Your care and support can also be provided by:

  • a day centre
  • care home
  • equipment or home adaptations

Your needs assessment might not look at all the options in detail. If you know how you’d like your care to be funded, you can ask for this during your needs assessment.

Look at the advantages and disadvantages of social care funding to see which would work best for you or your child.

Having an accessible assessment

You have the right to an accessible needs assessment. This can be:

  • at home
  • over the phone
  • on a video call
  • from a hospital ward

You can ask for adjustments. For example:

  • having 2 shorter assessments if you struggle with energy levels
  • asking for the questions before
  • asking the assessor to repeat questions or explain them in a way you will understand
  • having someone with you (for example: friend, family member or advocate)

When the social worker arrives, they might not know what your needs are. You should be clear about how they can make things accessible for you.

If your assessment is inaccessible, you can ask to reschedule.

Having someone with you at a needs assessment

You can have someone to support you during a needs assessment. This could be a partner, family member, friend or advocate.

An advocate is an independent professional who will support you to express your views and wishes and will always be on your side.

Advocates for social care assessments and appeals

Having someone at your needs assessment can:

  • help you explain what your needs are
  • speak on your behalf
  • share their experience of supporting you
  • ensure you say everything you want to

What happens at a needs assessment

A social worker or other health care professionals (like an occupational therapist) will assess you. It normally lasts about 1 hour and is at home, unless you have asked for it to be over the phone or via email.

An assessment is a chance to discuss with the local authority:

  • what is important to you
  • your needs
  • what you may need support with
  • what support or equipment you have
  • what having those needs met would mean to you, often called outcomes
  • the type of social care you’d benefit from

The assessment should be accessible to you.

Warning If your assessment is not accessible

If you start your social care needs assessment and it is not accessible, you can ask to rearrange.

Your needs assessment report

After a social care needs assessment you’ll receive a report. This is normally a letter unless you have asked for it in another format. It will be the results of your needs assessment and will say if you qualify for support.

Your needs assessment report will say:

  • what support you can get (paid carer, equipment, home adaptations)
  • how the support is funded
  • which outcomes the support helps with
  • if you need a financial assessment

A financial assessment will decide if you pay towards your care.

Financial assessment for social care

If you agree and are happy with your report, the support will be put into a care package. If you disagree with the result, you can challenge your needs assessment.

Challenging your social care needs assessment

If your needs assessment report includes equipment

Equipment may meet your needs. If so, the needs assessment report may refer you to:

  • an occupational therapist
  • wheelchair services

They will do their own assessments. You do not need to do anything; they should contact you. Waiting times will depend on your local authority.

Financial assessment for social care

Local authorities cannot charge for some types of care and support. This includes:

  • intermediate care for up to 6 weeks after you leave hospital
  • community equipment, such as aids and minor adaptations costing up to £1,000

Local authorities can charge for care and support following needs assessments. Most people will have to pay something towards their care.

Your local authority will carry out a financial assessment to decide how much you can afford. This will decide your weekly contribution.

Financial assessment for social care

Getting your care package

You will receive your care package when:

  • you’re happy with the support in your needs assessment report
  • you’ve had a financial assessment (if needed)

This might be called your support plan.

The care package will include:

  • the support you have been given
  • how many hours of support
  • how it has been funded
  • how much you have to contribute financially
  • next steps for how you get the support
  • when your care package will be reviewed
  • what to do if your needs change

Most local authorities will review your care package every year. You ask for a review sooner if:

  • your needs change
  • you’re unhappy with the delivery of your care

For example, a care agency provides your care, but this does not work with your lifestyle. You ask your local authority for a review. They give you a new care package with the same amount of support. This time you have funding for a personal assistant.

Education and social care needs

If you or your child are in education, you could have education needs and social care needs. One person could provide all the support, but assessment and funding are separate.

For example, an educational psychologist cannot assess social care needs. If you or your child have educational needs, you do not need proof of these to have a social care needs assessment.

Not everyone with educational needs has a social care need.

Educational needs

Support with educational needs could be:

  • equipment that allows someone to access education
  • support understanding
  • behavioural support in a classroom

Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support

If you or your child are 25 years old or younger, an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) can meet educational needs.

Applying for an EHCP

If you’re disabled and studying a higher education course, you can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) to cover some of the extra study-related costs or expenses.

Disabled Students' Allowance

Social care needs

Support with social care needs could be:

  • going to the toilet (personal care)
  • getting to and from school, college or university
  • getting changed
  • eating or drinking

If you or your child need education support, ask education staff for a referral.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 07/11/2023

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