What is a care needs assessment?

A care needs assessment works out what help or support you need with your care, and how you might get it. It is usually provided by the social services department of your local council. The council has to give you an assessment if you appear to need care and support, regardless of your income or savings or whether the council thinks you will qualify.

The assessment is a chance for you to discuss what support you need with a trained professional. They’ll involve you throughout the assessment. You’ll be given a chance to talk about any difficulties you have in looking after yourself and the impact these have on your wellbeing. For example, you might want to continue living independently in your home, but you are finding it difficult to wash and get dressed.

If you have a friend or family member looking after you as an unpaid carer, they can get a carer’s assessment to see if they need support to carry on their caring role.

What happens after the assessment?

The council will give you a copy of your care needs assessment and explain what your care needs are. If you're not given this, ask. You’ll also be told whether or not your needs are high enough for you to qualify for help from the council.

There are various types of help and support the assessment may suggest could help you, including:

  • disability equipment or adaptations to your home, such as a stairlift
  • telecare, such as a bed sensor or wearable alarm
  • help from a care worker with tasks like washing, dressing or taking medication
  • meals on wheels
  • residential care in a care home.

How long does it take?

There are no set timescales for carrying out an assessment but it should happen within a reasonable time and take into account the urgency of the situation. The council should tell you when they think your assessment will take place and keep you informed throughout the process. If your needs change from day to day or week to week, the council must look at them over time.

If you think you’ve been waiting too long, call the council and ask to speak to someone senior, such as the manager of adult social care, to find out when the process will be completed.

Urgent assessments

If you’re struggling to cope, perhaps because your needs suddenly increase or your care arrangements break down, ask for an urgent assessment. The council may provide you with an emergency care package until a full assessment can be carried out.

Types of assessment

Depending on how complex your needs are, the assessment might involve a face-to-face visit, a phone call, or a self-assessment form. Your preferences should be considered. In particular, you’re entitled to refuse to use the self-assessment process. If you lack mental capacity, for example because of dementia, the council should arrange a face-to-face assessment.

The council should give you information about the assessment process, including a copy of the questions you’ll be asked.

Paying for care

You may have to pay for some or all of your care. The council will look at your income and capital (eg savings) to work out how much it costs to meet your needs and whether you need to contribute. The way this financial assessment works depends on if you are going to be receiving care at home, or in a care home. The financial assessment should only take place after your care needs assessment. For more information, see our Paying for care section. 

Next steps

Request a care needs assessment from social services at gov.uk/apply-needs-assessment-social-services or by phoning your local council.

To help you get ready for it, see our checklist Preparing for your care needs assessment.

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