Carers have a legal right, under statutory law to an assessment of their needs. This is your chance to discuss with social services what help you need with caring. You can also discuss any help that would maintain your own health and balance caring with other aspects of your life, like work and family. Social services use the assessment to decide what help to provide you with.
Do I qualify for a carer’s assessment?
The law says you have a right to an assessment if you care for someone for ‘a substantial amount of time on a regular basis’, this is not defined any further.
Whether you are a carer living with or away from the person you care for, caring full time or combining care with paid work – you have a right to a carer’s assessment. If you are aged over 16, your right to an assessment is not affected, even if the person you care for does not want to receive help from social services.
You also have a right to an assessment if you intend to look after someone, for example, if your friend or relative is in hospital and you expect to look after them when they come back home. It may also be very helpful to ask for an assessment if you intend giving up work.
If you look after a disabled child you also have a right to an assessment.
You do not always have to be the child’s parent, but must have parental responsibility for the child.
Sadly, not all professionals are aware of carers’ right to an assessment and some carers are wrongly told that they are not entitled to one. If this happens to you and you believe you are entitled to an assessment, you should put your request in writing and ask why you are being refused an assessment.
You should also seek advice from a local carer’s organisation or Citizen Advice Bureau.
The person carrying out the assessment shouldn’t assume you want to take on a caring role or continue caring. They should ask if you are able and willing to carry out the tasks involved. For instance, you may find it hard to move someone in a wheelchair due to your own health problems or you may suffer from stress in coping with the challenging behaviour of the person you care for. You still care about the person you look after, but you may no longer be able to care for them physically and mentally.
As well as looking at the help you need, the assessment can be useful in:
You may be offered a carer’s assessment by your social services department. If not, you can ask for one.
You can also ask your GP or district nurse to contact social services for you.
If the person you look after is in hospital, speak to a nurse and ask to be put in touch with a hospital social worker.
Is there anything I can do to help me prepare for my assessment?
You may find it hard to think about what is involved in caring, as you just see it as part of everyday life. It is even harder to pinpoint what is involved in looking after someone with mental health needs.
If possible, talk to the person you care for before you call social services and agree what points you want to raise. You will both be involved in the assessment. If there are aspects of your situation you would rather discuss in confidence with a social worker, you are entitled to ask for a separate assessment on your own.
If either you or the person you care for has difficulty communicating, let social services know and they will provide help.
You may find this checklist useful in preparing for your assessment:
Usually a social worker or a member of social services will carry out the assessment. A meeting may also be needed with your GP or nurse if a lot of care is required.
The quality of carers’ assessments can vary, with some workers having a good understanding of how to help carers, but this is not always the case. It is important the social worker is aware of your situation. You are entitled to have a friend or advocate present at the assessment.
If you feel certain aspects of your caring role were not fully covered during your assessment, you may contact the social worker and arrange a follow up visit. This is quite common – people’s lives are often complex and it can be tough to talk about difficult issues regarding close relationships.
The social worker should explore with you the various support and services available to help you to look after the person you care for. Social services can give help and support directly to you, or give help directly to the person you care for.
If your caring situation is likely to continue for at least the foreseeable future, the social worker should set a date to review your needs and see if the help provided is working out. This is usually at least on an annual basis and more frequently if you are new to caring and your situation is complex.
What will happen after the assessment?
It is important that you are able to make an informed choice about how much you do (or want to take on in the future) as a carer. When social services decide what help and services to provide, they have to take into account the results of both your carer’s assessment and the community care assessment of the person you care for. They will summarise this in a care plan for the person you look after – a copy will be given to both of you.
Local authorities are required to set out how they make decisions about whether or not to provide services. These are termed eligibility criteria. The needs identified in the assessments are compared against their eligibility criteria. If the needs of the person that you look after match these eligibility criteria, the local authority must provide services to meet their needs.
You can obtain a copy of their eligibility criteria by phoning your local authority and asking for their Better Care, Higher Standards Charter.
Social services are only required to meet the needs that no-one else is willing to meet. It is important that if you are unable or unwilling to provide care or any aspect of caring, that this should be taken into account by the local authority when deciding what services to provide. For example, you may be willing to provide the bulk of the care as long as you get a regular break or services to fit around your job. Try to be clear about what level of care you can manage. If you feel under pressure to accept inadequate services, seek advice from Citizens Advice Bureau, your local Carers Centre or ring CarersLine.
Social services cannot refuse to meet a need they have identified solely on the basis that they do not have the money or other resources.
The person that you look after can refuse help from social services. This may leave you as a carer with very little or no support. If this is the case, it is important that the local authority should consider other areas of support which may ease some of the pressures of caring. For instance, help with cleaning your own house or washing could benefit you. Taxi fares may assist you to get to hospital appointments or help get you to work on time. A mobile phone could help you keep in touch and give you peace of mind.
These services are examples of carers’ services which will be provided to you rather than the person you care for.
Social services must make it clear which services are for you and which are for the person you are looking after.
What happens if I am not satisfied with the outcome?
You may be unhappy with how your assessment was carried out. You may be dissatisfied with the decision about what services will be provided to you and the person you look after. Advice centres like the Citizens Advice Bureau or a disability organisation can help you make a complaint or give you details of lawyers able to advise on community care law.
Social services have a procedure for dealing with concerns and complaints that must be followed.
Carers UK provide a downloadable guide to challenging decisions and making a complaint.
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45