Practical support for carers
If you’re providing regular care for someone who is ill or disabled, you may need some practical support. This could include things like:
- breaks for you from caring – sometimes called respite care
- someone to help with personal tasks, such as dressing
- home adaptations
- information and support, such as details of a local carers’ support group
You can have your needs recognised by having a carer’s assessment. It doesn’t cost anything to be assessed.
Getting a carer’s assessment
You are entitled to have a carer’s assessment if you feel you need support and to receive that support if you qualify. This is your right under the Care Act 2014 in England, the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014 in Wales and the Carers and Direct Payment Act 2002 in Northern Ireland.
In Scotland you have the right to an assessment, but carers do not have an automatic right to services. It doesn’t matter what type of care you give or the amount of time you spend caring for someone.
You can have an assessment whether or not the person you care for has had an assessment by social services, or if they’ve been considered not to be eligible for support.
It is your choice as to whether the person you are caring for is present at your assessment or not.
In Northern Ireland, if there is more than one carer providing regular care in your household, you’re both entitled to an assessment. The assessment is carried out by your local social services or social work department, or by your health and social care trust in Northern Ireland.
If you are not automatically offered an assessment, you should contact them by phone, in writing or online, and ask for one.
The assessment will look at:
- how long you’ve been caring
- whether you are able to provide care
- how many hours a week you provide care
- if you want/are able to continue
- how caring is affecting you and your family physically and emotionally
- what will help you with things that are important to you, like your work, education, relationships and social activities.
Your assessment is your chance to explain how caring affects you and what help you need to do it. You may find it helpful to keep a diary of what care you provide on a daily basis, so you can give your assessor an accurate picture of what you do.
You’re likely to be assessed by a care manager or healthcare professional. They will talk to you about your needs and their impact on your wellbeing. Your assessment may take place at home or over the phone.
If you qualify for help
Following the assessment, social services will decide if you’re eligible for services for you as the carer or to the person you care for. Social services must involve you in creating a support plan for how your needs are going to be met.
You’ll be given information about any services and support that your council social services department (or social work department in Scotland) can give you. This can vary from nation to nation around the UK.
At a minimum, social services must provide all carers – including those not eligible for support – with information and advice on local services to prevent your needs from increasing.
How your support is funded
The decision about whether social services pay for your support will depend on your financial situation (if services are provided to you) or on the financial situation of the person you care for (if services are provided to them as a result of your assessment).
Although social services may charge you for the support you receive directly from them following a financial assessment, government guidance recommends that councils carefully consider whether they should charge for carer’s support, in recognition of the valuable contribution that carers make to society.
As part of your support plan, you are entitled to receive a personal budget, which is a statement of the overall cost of meeting your needs. This includes the amount the local council or health and social care trust is going to pay and the amount you will pay.
You are entitled to request some or all of the personal budget as direct payments (see below) to give you control over how your support is provided and flexibility on arranging your own support.
For more details, contact Carers UK .
If you're a carer you may be able to get direct payments to help you arrange and pay for services or products that would help you, instead of receiving them directly from your local authority. A statutory social worker would need to assess you to decide whether you are eligible for direct payments. To get expert advice and information on direct payments and personal budgets, contact Carers Northern Ireland .
Councils in Scotland do not have to offer services. But if they do, you should be offered ‘self-directed support’. This allows you to choose how you want your services arranged. Visit Self Directed Support to find out more.
There are four different options for self-directed support:
These are direct payments paid by the local council to you. It means you can pay for your own care and support services.
Individual service fund
This is money given to pay for support, choosing services from private care providers, charities or the council. The council will manage the fund but you are in charge of how it’s spent.
Here, the council will organise services on your behalf.
A combination of the above
The council may decide to offer you a combination of the arrangements above.
Social services in Wales must offer direct payments to everyone, including carers, who want them and are eligible for them. These are payments given instead of social care services and are intended to enable individuals to buy the care that they need from social services.
If you're not happy with the assessment, or its outcome
If you're not happy with the assessment, tell the relevant authority. You can ask for another assessment if you think it is necessary.
If things can't be resolved informally, ask for details of the local authority's complaints procedure and make a formal complaint. If you are unhappy with the way your complaint is handled by the local authority, you can complain to the following Ombudsmen for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:
- The Local Government Ombudsman
- The Welsh Ombudsman
- The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
- Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.
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