Care needs assessments can help people get valuable financial support from their local council if they’re no longer able to carry out daily tasks, although actually getting one can be easier said than done.

If you or a loved one is struggling with everyday tasks such as getting dressed or washing themselves, a care needs assessment is an essential first step to accessing assistance. The assessment, conducted by a social worker from your local authority, evaluates your situation to determine what services and support you may be eligible for.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a care needs assessment?

A care needs assessment is a meeting with a social worker from your local council to understand what help they can offer you, depending on your eligibility.

Having a care needs assessment could mean you get access to support and services such as:

  • Equipment like a walking frame or personal alarm
  • Changes to your home such as a walk-in shower
  • Practical help from a paid carer
  • Day care for a child if either you or they are disabled
  • Access to day centres and lunch clubs
  • Moving to a care home.

Who needs a care needs assessment?

If you feel you need care or support in managing day-to-day activities then you’re entitled to have a care needs assessment carried out by your local authority. Under the 2014 Care Act, local councils are required to assess anyone who appears to need care or support, so if you think you need help, you can ask for an assessment.

If you need help or support with any number of the following day-to-day activities, then you might want to consider getting a care needs assessment:

  • Maintaining and cleaning your home
  • Managing your personal admin
  • Using the toilet
  • Washing
  • Getting dressed
  • Shopping for food
  • Preparing meals
  • Eating and drinking
  • Working
  • Socialising
  • Maintaining relationships.

How do I get a care needs assessment?

Care needs assessments are carried out by your council’s social services so you need to contact them to arrange one. You can find your local authority and start your assessment request on

Every council manages their care needs assessment process slightly differently, but generally, they’ll ask you some preliminary questions to understand your needs before inviting you for the actual care needs assessment.

If it’s not possible to apply through your local authority, you should speak to your GP to start the process.

Bear in mind that thousands of people are currently waiting to have their care needs assessed due to funding and demand pressures, so this process can take many months.

What happens during a care needs assessment?

When your local social services arranges your care needs assessment, they’ll usually book a time to come and visit you so they can see how you’re managing at home. It’s also possible to have the assessment over the phone or online if you’d prefer.

The assessment usually lasts for about an hour, during which the social worker (or sometimes occupational therapist) will ask you to provide more detail about your ability to carry out the tasks outlined above. You’ll also have the chance to talk about what support you think you need and want, so it’s useful to think about this beforehand.

The aim of the assessment is for the person from social services to understand what support or care you might need and come up with a plan for you.

To do this, they will take into consideration several aspects of your life, not just your health and mobility. During the assessment, they might also ask you about your cultural and religious background, your living arrangements, the support network you have, your GP and any other professionals who help manage your care currently.

What information do I need for a care needs assessment?

You don’t need to prepare any specific documents for your care needs assessment, but to get the most out of the process, it can be helpful to think about a few things in advance.

During the assessment, you’ll be asked questions about your health and any conditions you have, your ability to do certain things, and you’ll also be asked what outcome you’d like to see from the assessment.

It can be useful to make some notes on the following points to support your conversation:

  • The things you’re struggling with: While we all have good days and bad days, try to be open and realistic about the things you’re struggling with. Some people find it useful to keep a diary for a period of time before the assessment so you can make a note of what you’re able to do by yourself, what you’re struggling with and the impact it’s having.
  • Any ideas of support or services that you think might help you: No one knows your situation better than you do, so if you think something might help, it can be useful to bring this up
  • Details of what outcomes you’d like to achieve: If you want to be able to do certain things, for example, to be able to prepare your own food, or maintain personal hygiene, then making a note of these goals can be useful.

If there’s anything else you want to flag or there’s something you want to be considered in the assessment, then make sure you make a note of this too.

What happens after a care needs assessment?

After your care needs assessment, your local authority will decide whether you’re eligible for help or support and they will send you the results of the assessment.

If your local council agrees that you need help, they should send you a written care plan outlining your needs, the outcome you want to achieve and the proposed solution your local council has provided. If you aren’t happy with what has been outlined in your care plan, then you should reach out to your local council to discuss it. If you don’t receive a written care plan, then you should request one.

If it has been found that you need help then your council will carry out a financial assessment, also known as a means test. This assessment will identify how much meeting your needs will cost, the amount you can afford to contribute and how much your council will provide.

If you are told you aren’t eligible for help from your council, they should still provide you with information on how to manage your needs, and give you suggestions of where you might be able to find help in the local community.

How long should the care needs assessment process take?

There aren’t any specific timelines that local authorities need to abide by with care needs assessments, with the rules stating that they simply need to be carried out within a reasonable time.

As mentioned earlier, there are considerable delays in care needs assessments being carried out. Adult social care charity, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), says that close to half a million people are waiting for an assessment or review of their needs or for care and support to begin.

Don’t let potential delays deter you from asking for help though. If you’re struggling, then it’s really important to reach out for support.

Do I have to pay for a care needs assessment?

You don’t have to pay for a care needs assessment itself, but depending on your circumstances, you might need to pay for some or all of the care you receive as a result of the assessment.

Following a care needs assessment, if your local council thinks you need support, you will also have a financial assessment. This assessment will consider your ability to pay for your care. You can read more in our guide How to pay for long-term care.

Can I appeal a care needs assessment decision?

If you are not happy with the outcome of your assessment, or are unhappy with the assessment process, you have the right to complain. 

The first step is to reach out to your local council. Every council manages complaints differently, so ask for their complaints procedure.

If you’ve been through the council’s complaints procedure and you still aren’t satisfied with the outcome, you can escalate the complaint to your Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman.

You can read more about complaining about care services and processes in our article How to complain about care services: a complete guide.

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