If you, a friend, or family member has started needing help to cope with day-to-day tasks, the first stage of your care journey is to get a free social care needs assessment from your local council. In this article we will explain all the most important information you need to know about the ‘needs assessment’ process.
What is a care needs assessment?
A care needs assessment is an independent evaluation of the level of care or support that you currently need. It is normally carried out by an assessor who comes from the social services department of your local council.
During the assessment, you can discuss and clarify your needs and goals with a qualified professional. Whether you need help to get dressed and carry out day-to-day tasks, or assistance in maintaining your social life or keeping up with your hobbies, the assessor can clarify the options available to you. These assessments usually have the end goal of helping you continue to live independently.
What can you get from doing the assessment?
After a needs assessment you will have a clearer idea of what you will need to safely remain in your own home. You will also be able to get a means test or financial assessment. Therefore, only by completing a needs assessment will the council be able to make an informed decision on whether you are eligible for:
· A paid carer that provides practical support
· Funding for equipment, such as a personal alarm, or walking equipment
· Funding for major or minor adaptations of your home
· Day care for your child(ren), if either you or they are disabled
· Access to lunch clubs and day activity groups
· Help with parenting, such as classes
· Care home admission
How long is the care needs assessment process?
Although there is no set timescale for the process to start, it normally takes from 4-6 weeks for the claim to be assessed. And once the assessment has been carried out, you normally get the results within a week.
However, if you or your loved one have a rapidly deteriorating condition, with substantial ongoing care needs, it would be better to consider the NHS continuing healthcare fast-tracked assessment service.
The care needs assessment interview lasts a least an hour and will be either face-to-face, over the phone or online (during the COVID-19 period, only contactless assessments will take place).
Coronavirus and care assessments
During the COVID-19 pandemic emergency period, your local council might trigger temporary powers (known as easements) that let them decide how, when and in what order they carry out these assessments. This may mean that your assessment takes longer than usual. However, councils must always give you at least all of the necessary information and advice as soon as they possibly can.
How to prepare for a care needs assessment?
It is helpful to give as much detail as you can in the assessment, as this will ensure you receive the assistance you require. The assessor will also consider the various types of services, resources and advice that would help to prevent or delay further care needs from developing and help you to stay better for longer. It is therefore helpful to reflect on some of the questions they might ask and prepare some notes on how you might answer in advance. An example of some of these questions are:
· How are you managing with day-to-day tasks? - washing and dressing yourself, cooking
· Do your needs fluctuate? - you may be able to do something well now but in the past you may have struggled
· What are your choices and goals? - take up a new hobby, maintain/develop relationships, use and move about home safely, take part in education/work/ volunteering, look after children you have responsibility for
· What barriers are stopping you from achieving those goals? - you fear falling when leaving the house
· What are your care preferences? - time of day, level of care desired
· What are your family’s needs? - do you have other family members who need assistance?
Bring a friend or an advocate
It is best to have a friend or relative with you during the assessment, this can help if you are unable to easily explain the challenges you may be facing. They may even help to take notes on what the assessor advises.
If this is not possible you could use an advocate. Advocates are people who make sure you are heard and understood, their service is often available free locally. Find an advocate in your local area here.
How do you apply?
Apply for a needs assessment today by entering your postcode and filling out the form.
What if your care needs are urgent?
If you urgently need help, you can ask for an urgent care needs assessment. In these cases, the council may be able to provide you with an emergency care package until the assessment is carried out.
Support with your application
The whole process may seem daunting, especially if you are new to the world of care. Luckily, there are many organisations and charities, both nationally and locally, that are able to provide clear and unbiased support, as well as answers to your questions.
Free phone helplines:
· Age UK: 0800 678 1602 (Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year.)
· Independent Age: 0800 319 6789
· The Family Rights Group: 0808 801 0366
You can also access further free information on these websites:
· Age UK (elderly needs assessment info)
· Mind (mental health needs assessment info)
What happens after the assessment?
Once you have got the results of your assessment, if the council has deemed you eligible for support, they will then consult you to draw up a Care Plan.
Alternatively, if they do not deem you eligible you can either challenge their assessment, or go ahead and consider hiring a carer today through self-funding.