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First steps

If you are experiencing difficulties managing at home and feel you may need assistance, then the first step towards arranging suitable care services is to contact your local council social services department to ask for an assessment of your needs to be undertaken. You can ask a friend or relative or GP to do this on your behalf.   By law, social services must assess anyone who appears to be in need of a community care service and you cannot be refused on financial grounds.

Each local authority has its own assessment procedure and produces its own Charter.  This will be available at the social services department.  This will tell you who will be eligible for assessment, how to apply for an assessment and how long you will wait.  It should also outline how the assessor will decide what services should be provided.


There is no definitive timescale for the assessment process and this will vary from local authority to local authority and also according to your individual circumstance.  However, as a guide, the Government has introduced some performance indicators. According to these, local authorities should work towards starting all assessments within 48 hours and completing them within 28 days.  All services should then be in place within a further 28 days (different rules apply to the discharge of hospital in-patients).

There are three elements to the assessment process:

  • assessment of needs and circumstances
  • written identification of needs
  • financial assessment as appropriate

Needs Assessment

Most assessments will be carried out in your own home by social services professionals although there is an increasing trend to offer assessments over the phone.  However it may take place in an official social services office or even a hospital depending on your circumstances.  It should then be followed up by a home visit, as appropriate.

If you are not comfortable having your assessment on the phone and feel this may not adequately determine your needs, you can request that you are assessed face to face.

You are entitled to have someone with you during the assessment if you wish (a relative, friend, carer, GP etc) and this may be especially advisable if you struggle to communicate your views effectively.

The point of the assessment is to determine exactly what your needs are and therefore what support services you may need.  Together with your assessor the assessment will look at what you are able to do and the things you are having problems with, your health and your current living and care arrangements.

It is a responsibility of the local authority to ensure that you are an active participant in this process and that you are fully involved in the assessment.  You must be able to articulate your preferences and choices and government guidance confirms that your views and wishes must be kept at the centre of all decisions that are made

If your needs are complex, you may need more than one visit and social services may need to contact other people involved in your care. This is called a multi-disciplinary assessment.

Whether via telephone assessment or the more complex multi-disciplinary assessment, it is vital that all your needs are considered.

If you are unhappy with the result of the assessment, or how it was carried out, then you can make a complaint. All local authorities have a straightforward complaints procedure; contact your social services department for details. If you need help or advice with making a complaint your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Age Concern group may be able to help you. You may find the following guide from the charity Counsel and Care useful (link to guide)

The packages of care provided by Local Authorities are regularly reviewed and you can ask for a reassessment at any time.

Care Plan

After your assessment, you should be provided with a clear written statement declaring what your needs are, how they will be met, and which organisations or individuals will be involved in meeting those needs. For example can you return home with assistance provided by carers? Do you need residential or nursing care? Or do you need a home with special facilities e.g. for dementia care? This statement is called the Care Plan.

Financial assessment

After your Needs Assessment and the writing up of your Care Plan, there will be an assessment of your finances by social services.  This will review both your income and your capital savings to see how much you can afford to pay towards services provided by the local council.  This will ascertain whether or not you are entitled to financial assistance. The rules relating to this are contained within the Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide' (CRAG).

Whether you are paying privately for your care or being funded by the State there is much to know to ensure that you get what you are rightfully entitled to and our finance section covers this area in more detail (click here).