Needs assessment process for social care
Local authorities have to assess any adult that appears to have a need for care and support. An assessment should happen even if the authority thinks that the adult is unlikely to have eligible needs or be eligible for local authority funding.
Assessments are for:
- individuals who need support
- unpaid carers
The process for carers
An assessment is a chance for the local authority to find out about:
- what is important to you
- your needs
- what you may need support with
- what having those needs met would mean to you (often referred to as outcomes)
- whether you meet the eligibility criteria for social care.
An assessment is a vital starting point for getting the right decision about what support you need. Assessments should be person-centred. You are at the centre of an assessment and all decisions.
Assessments can be in different formats, depending on where you live and your level of need. For example, it may not be appropriate for someone with complex needs to have an assessment over the phone. It’s common for local authorities to use some sort of ‘triage’ process to decide which type of assessment would be appropriate. Assessments can be:
- Face to face: A qualified assessor from the local authority, such as a social worker, care manager or another worker, visits your home or the ward if you are in hospital.
- A supported self-assessment: You complete an assessment (usually a form) or a council worker helps you to complete the form.
- A phone or online assessment: This is for someone who appears to have less complex needs (or to determine the need for a more detailed face-to-face or supported self-assessment).
- Joint assessment: Face to face but with professionals from other teams or services that you are in contact with or are receiving support from.
You can have someone to support you during the assessment and at any stage. This could be a partner, family member or friend. It can help to have someone who provides you with any type of informal support.
If you do not have someone who could support you (and not having this support would mean that you are unable to take part in your assessment fully) then the local authority can provide an independent advocate for you.
An advocate is an independent professional who will support you to express your views and wishes and ensure that your voice is heard.
Financial assessment (following a care needs assessment)
Local authorities are not allowed to charge for some types of care and support including intermediate care (which is short-term care provided free of charge for up to 6 weeks after you leave hospital) and community equipment (aids and minor adaptations) costing up to £1,000. Local authorities are allowed to charge for care and support following needs assessments. Most people will have to pay something towards the cost. Your local authority will carry out a financial assessment to decide how much you can afford to pay. The financial assessment will determine your weekly contribution.
Local authorities normally publish their financial assessment policy on their websites. They have to follow national guidelines but are also able to apply their own flexibility.
Financial assessment: basic principles
If you have savings and capital over £23,250, you will have to pay the full cost of your care and support.
Savings and capital below £14,250 are not taken into account.
Any savings and capital between £14,250 and £23,250 are taken into account as tariff income. This means that for every £250 of savings and capital between those amounts a weekly income of £1 will be assumed.
Income from state benefits is taken into account including: Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance and exceptionally severe disablement allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments (care component).
The local authority has to leave you with a minimum level of income following charging. Contact your local authority for details.
The financial assessment takes into account the need for you to pay some household expenses such as rent, mortgage and council tax.
The extra costs you have to pay because of your impairment or health condition, such as a community alarm, extra heating costs, extra or specialist clothing, can also be taken into account. Local authorities will decide what they consider to be disability-related expenses.
How to get the best out of your assessment
- If the local authority is saying they want to cut your support, ask them to provide the same care and support for you until you have been properly reassessed.
- Say that you want an assessment with a social worker or other person with specific training and understanding of your needs and condition. It should be face to face unless your needs are straightforward enough to cover everything by phone. You should receive a copy of the questions before the assessment happens. Talk to the assessor about what should go in the form. Check what they have written before it’s processed. They cannot just offer self-assessment forms that are then processed without speaking to you.
- Prepare some supporting evidence. Ask your family, friends and your doctor or other professionals who know you to write about what might happen if you lose the care you need. Check that the assessor has consulted all the relevant people who can help to explain about your needs.
- Anyone who provides you with unpaid care should be involved. They should have an assessment of their own needs as a carer. This may be friends or family, including young people. They may be entitled to support themselves so that they can continue caring for you whilst managing their own lives. You and your carers need to be clear about whether you want them to continue providing as much care, or whether this is causing problems and you need more help from outside.
- Some organisations may provide further advice on how to make your case or be able to support you at the assessment visit. A friend or family member could also come with you. If you need help putting your views across, you can ask the local authority to provide you with an independent advocate to support you to express your concerns.