• How to get the care advice you need

    If you’re looking for advice about how you can get care and support for yourself or someone else, our simple guide can help. We have lots of information on this website but the social care system can be confusing. If you don’t know where to start, take a couple of minutes to answer a few questions and we’ll direct you to the information that’s most relevant to you.

    If you need more help or your situation is urgent, call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser.

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Getting started

I don't know who to ask for help

If you need help with your care, the first step is to ask your local council’s social services department for a care needs assessment. An appropriately trained person from the council will work out what support you need and how you might get it. The assessment is always free and the council must give you information about the assessment process. When you ask for help, make a note of the name of anyone you speak to and always ask for copies of documents. When you are assessed, think carefully about what you need and be as specific as possible about the difficulties you have – don’t downplay them.

You may be asked to complete a self-assessment form initially, which will be checked by an assessor. You may want to get help from a friend or an organisation such as Citizens Advice to complete the form. You can refuse a self-assessment if you wish. You must be offered an appropriate alternative, which could be an online, telephone or face-to face assessment.

Your local council is usually your first point of contact but the NHS or other agencies may also be involved. Some key services are provided by the NHS, such as community nurses. Your GP or other NHS professionals may also refer you to social services, for example if you need a piece of equipment you may be referred to an occupational therapist.

If the council thinks you have urgent needs, they can provide immediate care and do an assessment later.

I need help to express my views and wishes about my care

If you need help to get your views across, you could get support from an independent advocate. They can help you say what you want, make sure you get the information you need, give you practical help such as writing letters, and ensure that your rights are protected.

I need a face-to-face assessment, but my council tells me they only do telephone assessments

You don't have an absolute right to a face-to-face assessment and, in some instances, a telephone assessment may be appropriate, for example if it's to review your care or if you have fairly simple needs.

However, your assessment should be comprehensive and the council must establish the full extent of all of your needs before making a decision about whether you qualify for support. There may be good reasons why this would be hard to do on the phone – for example if you have difficulty explaining or expressing your needs or if it's important for the assessor to see your home environment. So if you feel a telephone assessment would not identify all your needs for any reason, you should ask the council for a face-to-face assessment.

I want to know if I will have to pay for my care and support

Contact your local council and ask for a care needs assessment. This should always be the first step. When the council has assessed you and agrees that you need care and support, they should give you a separate financial assessment (or means test). Someone from the council will ask you about your finances – including any property and savings – to work out how much you‘ll have to contribute to the costs of your care.

The amount you have to pay should be reasonable and you should only be asked to pay what you can afford. Even if you’re paying for all of your care yourself, it’s still a good idea to have these assessments as your situation could change in the future.

If you don’t qualify for any financial help, the council should still provide information about care providers in the area and likely costs. This can help when negotiating fees.

I’m getting help from the council but I want to organise my own care

If the council is paying anything towards your care, they work out how much money is required to meet your needs. This is called your personal budget. If you’re getting care at home, as long as you use it to pay for the care services you need, you have the right to control your personal budget yourself. This means you can decide how the money will be spent and organise your own care and support so that it suits you.

I’m not happy with the council’s advice or assessments

The council must give you a copy of your care needs assessment and financial assessment - if they don’t, you should request one. If you’re turned down for support or you’re unhappy with the outcome of the council’s assessments of your care needs or finances, you should check to see if they’ve underestimated your needs or if there are any gaps or inaccuracies and if so, ask for a review.

If you’re still unhappy, you should use the council’s complaints procedure. If your situation is urgent, speak to a senior social worker straight away. You could get an independent advocate to help you if you’re not confident about doing this on your own. You can also call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser if you've been unable to resolve the situation informally or your needs are urgent.

There's a long wait for assessments but my needs are urgent

When you ask the council for a care needs assessment, make sure you tell them that your needs are urgent and what the impact would be if you had to wait a long time.

In some circumstances, for example if your situation may deteriorate rapidly, the council may decide to meet your urgent needs and do a full needs and financial assessment afterwards.

I’ve been waiting a long time for help from my council

You could be waiting several weeks for a care needs assessment. If you’ve been waiting for a long time, contact the council again and ask to speak to a more senior social worker, such as a Social Work Manager. Don’t be afraid of seeming pushy – you are entitled to this help. If your situation is urgent, make this clear, because the council may provide immediate help and do an assessment later if necessary.

If you’ve had an assessment and you’re waiting for services to be put in place, speak to the person who assessed you. The council has a duty to keep you informed of what’s happening. If you’re not satisfied, ask to speak to someone more senior. You could also make a complaint.

There’s a problem with my care but nobody will take responsibility for sorting it out

Problems can arise such as delays in services, poor staff behaviour, communication failures or situations involving abuse. How you tackle it depends on the problem. It may be enough to deal with the situation informally at first by speaking to the manager of the organisation providing your care. You also have a right to make a complaint.

All health and care services must have a complaints procedure. If you want to make a formal complaint, begin by requesting a copy. If your complaint concerns both the NHS and adult social services, you only need to make your complaint to one organisation. That organisation must contact the other service to decide who will take overall responsibility for dealing with your complaint.

If you’re not happy with the response you can take further action, for example by contacting the Ombudsman responsible for that service. You can also get support to make your complaint.

If the problem involves abuse, you should contact your local council’s adult social services department or safeguarding team as soon as possible. If it’s an emergency, call the police.

I think the NHS should be paying for my care

If you have complex health and care needs you may be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding. It can be difficult to qualify but it’s worth applying if you think you may be eligible as all your care will be free.

Your local Clinical Commissioning Group must take reasonable steps to make sure you’re assessed if it appears that you may have a need for NHS Continuing Healthcare. You can ask a nurse, doctor, GP or social worker for an NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment.

Help at home

I need equipment or adaptations to live safely and independently at home

There are many home adaptations and products that could enable you to stay living independently in your own home, from lever taps in the kitchen or an extra handrail on the stairs to ramps or a downstairs bathroom. You may also benefit from telecare devices that help to keep you safe at home, such as alarms or sensors.

Contact your local council to arrange a care needs assessment involving an occupational therapist (OT). The OT is a specialist who will look at what everyday tasks you struggle to do and then suggest easier and safer ways for you to do them. They can also work out what equipment or adaptations you may need. You might also be able to get help with costs. If you’ve been assessed as needing a piece of equipment, or a minor adaptation that costs less than £1000 to buy and install, the local council must provide this free of charge.

I need a piece of equipment or adaptation but the council/NHS are refusing to help

The council must give you information about equipment and adaptations as well as other sources of help and information.

If you’ve been told the council or NHS will not provide or pay for a piece of equipment or an adaptation, you can make a complaint. Start by asking the council or NHS for their complaints procedure. If you had an occupational therapy assessment or care needs assessment, ask for a copy of this as well. If you need advice about what further action to take, you can call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser.

I need help with personal care so I can stay safe and well

If you’re finding it more difficult to do things like getting washed and dressed or taking your medication, contact your local council and ask them to assess your needs. If they agree that you need help and they are contributing to the costs, they’ll work out a care plan with you and help you to get support. You may also qualify for Attendance Allowance if you need care and support. This benefit isn’t means-tested so you can claim it whatever your income or savings. You may also want to organise your own care.

I need help with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning and shopping

There are various services that can offer you extra help at home depending on what you need. You will probably have to pay for this type of service yourself but your local council should provide you with details of services in your area. If you need help with personal care like washing, dressing or using the toilet, it’s a good idea to also ask your council for a care needs assessment involving an occupational therapist.

I haven’t got enough money for my day-to-day expenses

One in five pensioners isn’t claiming money they’re entitled to. Some benefits are based on how much money you have, such as Pension Credit, but others are based on your health or care needs, for example Attendance Allowance. It’s worth checking to see if there’s any extra money you could be getting. If you need more advice, you can call our Helpline.

I think my relative needs more help but I don’t know how to talk to them about it

It can be difficult knowing how and when to broach sensitive subjects but it’s better to plan ahead than wait until there’s a crisis. It’s possible your relative knows that they need help but they’re not sure what to ask for. There are ways to tackle these difficult subjects and there may be some simple solutions that could be put in place to help them live independently for longer.

I’m worried about abuse

Abuse can take many forms and it can happen anywhere. If you’re worried, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Abuse is rare but if it does happen, it’s important to remember that it isn’t your fault and you don’t have to put up with it.

If you’re concerned, speak to someone you trust, such as friends or family, or if you prefer, your GP or your local council’s social services department. Your local council has a special team for reporting concerns about abuse or neglect, sometimes called a safeguarding team. This team has a duty to investigate to see what action may need to be taken. You can also get help from other organisations.

Your future care

I don’t know who will make decisions for me if I can’t make them myself

It’s a good idea to put arrangements in place early so people will know what you want if you’re unable to make decisions yourself. This may involve setting up legal documents that can give someone you trust the authority to make decisions on your behalf. This can give you peace of mind. It also ensures that your wishes for your health, care and finances are met.

I’m finding it difficult to manage my property

You may be able to get practical help to look after your home, for example with repairs or improvements and if you’re on a low income, you may be able to get financial help. You might also want to start considering other housing options if the maintenance of your property is getting too much for you.

I want to know what my housing options are

If you’re thinking of moving, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and consider all your options. You may want to think about downsizing or you could look at housing that offers more specialist support and care.

I’m considering a move to a care home

Moving into a care home is a big decision and there’s a lot to consider. You’ll need to think about what type of care home will best meet your needs and how you’ll pay for it. If you decide that a care home is the right option for you, there are things to look for that will help you choose somewhere you’ll feel at home.

As a first step, you should ask the council for a care needs assessment to make sure a care home is the best option or whether support at home would be more suitable for your needs. Once they’ve assessed your needs they will carry out a financial assessment to see how much you‘ll have to contribute towards your fees. Even if you’re going to organise and pay for everything yourself, it’s still a good idea to have these assessments as your situation may change in future.

Looking after someone else

I regularly look after someone else

Looking after someone else can be demanding. If you do this regularly, you have rights as a carer. Contact your local council and ask for a carer’s assessment to see if you can get support. There are also support organisations that can give you information and advice and you may qualify for Carer’s Allowance.

I need more practical help with looking after someone

Caring for someone can take its toll but you can get support. Ask your local council to give you a carer’s assessment to find out if you can get help from them. There are other organisations that can help you as well.

I need more money to help me look after someone

If you spend a lot of time looking after a partner, relative or a friend, you may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance. You may also want to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to. Call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser if you need more help.

I need a break from caring

It’s important to look after yourself as well and breaks can help you continue caring. There are various options, including day centres or short-term residential care. It’s a good idea to speak to the council and explore the options early in case you need to take a break at short notice. You may be able to get help with costs. If you haven’t had a carer’s assessment, you should ask for one.

I’m getting support from the council, but I can’t cope any more

Looking after someone else can be tiring and it’s important to look after yourself too. If you feel you can’t cope, you can ask the council’s social services department for an urgent review of your needs to see if they can provide more support if this is what you want.

Circumstances change and there could be many reasons why you may not be able to continue providing care for someone. They might need more support or you may have your own health concerns, for example. It’s understandable if you feel that you can no longer provide care for any reason.

If you’re no longer willing or able to provide care for someone else, the council must assess them to work out what support they need without your help. Ask your local council’s social services department for a care needs assessment or review for the person you care for. Make sure you tell them that the situation is urgent and what the impact would be if you had to wait a long time. In some circumstances, for example if the situation may deteriorate rapidly, the council may decide to meet their urgent needs and do a full needs and financial assessment afterwards.

I’m not happy with my carer’s assessment

The council must give you a copy of your carer’s assessment and financial assessment - if they don’t, you should request one. If you’re turned down for support or you’re unhappy with the outcome of the council’s assessments, you should check to see if they’ve underestimated your needs or if there are any gaps or inaccuracies and if so, ask for a review.

If you’re still unhappy, you should use the council’s complaints procedure. If your situation is urgent, speak to a senior social worker straight away. You could get an independent advocate to help you if you’re not confident about doing this on your own.

My partner/relative/friend isn’t ready to leave hospital but they are being put under pressure to go home

Your relative shouldn’t be sent home from hospital until their doctor says they are well enough. If it seems that they’ll need care and support when they return home, they should be given a care needs assessment and a care plan. Any care and support that they need should be put in place before they leave hospital.

If their discharge is delayed, for example because of a lack of care services from the council, ask to speak to the discharge co-ordinator and try to resolve the situation informally. If this doesn’t work, you may want to make a complaint. If your complaint is about both the NHS and social services you only need to complain to one organisation and they must inform the other service.

If you need advice about what further action to take, you can call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser.

My relative can’t make decisions for themselves so how can I help them?

If your relative has lost mental capacity, you may need legal authority such as a lasting power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf. Mental capacity means having the ability to understand, retain and use information in order to make and express decisions about your life. Loss of mental capacity isn’t always permanent. It could be temporary or change over time. If your relative has difficulties communicating, attempts should be made to overcome those difficulties.

If you don’t have a lasting power of attorney, you can apply to the Court of Protection to become a deputy. The role is similar to that of an attorney but you must be appointed by the Court of Protection and this can take time.