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What is a care needs assessment? Everything you need to know

If everyday tasks are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve on your own, a care needs assessment can help to determine the best ways to support you, and, as importantly, outline how your council could help financially.

For many, a care needs assessment can be the first step to living a more supported and independent life.  This assistance can be provided via various means depending on your needs and can include disability equipment or elderly live-in care specialists.

In this guide, we will discuss:

What is a care needs assessment?

A care needs assessment or a social care assessment is an assessment carried out to determine the level of care and support someone may need. 

Some examples of support that may be recommended after a care needs assessment may include: 

  • Personal care for the elderly
  • Adjustments to your home, such as installing a walk-in shower or a stairlift
  • Disability equipment, such as a walking frame or a personal panic alarm
  • Access to lunch clubs, day centres, or even daycare if you or your child are disabled

Who carries out a needs assessment?

A  needs assessment is a free service that is provided by your local authority and council. It is the legal duty of a local council to evaluate individuals in their community for their care needs. If you are living in England or Wales, a member of staff from the adult social services department of your local council should provide an assessment. If you live in Northern Ireland, it will be the Health and Social Care Trust. 

The assessment will be carried out on behalf of the local council by a care specialist such as a nurse, social worker, or occupational therapist. 

Where can it be done?

You can do your assessment in a number of ways. It can be done face-to-face, over the phone, or in your own home. You may even be able to complete it on your own by filling out a self-assessment form provided by your local council.Care needs assessments typically last at least an hour. However, this depends on how complex your situation is. It is also possible that you will need further assessments for the local council to fully understand your situation, such as a financial assessment or a means test. 

How long does a care needs assessment take?

Care needs assessments typically last at least an hour. However, this depends on how complex your situation is. It is also possible that you will need further assessments for the local council to fully understand your situation, such as a financial assessment or a means test.

How to arrange a care needs assessment

You can easily arrange a care needs assessment by contacting the social services at your local council, and explaining to them why you would like a needs assessment. For example, you could share with them the difficulties you have with accessing your community.

 You can do this by calling them, or, if you live in England or Wales, you can apply for a needs assessment online here. If you need assistance with applying, reach out to the Citizens Advice Bureau or your local council. 

Can I arrange an assessment for my relative or friend?

It is possible to arrange an assessment for someone else, such as a relative or a friend. However, the person has to agree to it. The only exception to this is if they don’t have the capacity to make or communicate this decision on their own. 

If you care for this person, a carer’s assessment can also be completed to see what types of aid you can have access to, such as training, support groups, exercise classes for stress relief, or help with taxi fares. This assessment is unique to the care needs assessment, but it can be completed at the same time if you ask. 

Care needs assessment criteria

Everyone is entitled to a free care needs assessment, regardless of age, income, or the complexity of needs. Even if your issues come and go, a care needs assessment can help you find support for the days when you need it most. 

During the assessment, local authorities will be looking to see if you meet certain criteria in regard to your specific needs. They are legally responsible to see that you receive appropriate care if you are physically or mentally impaired or if you are unable to maintain the following without assistance: 

  • Good personal hygiene 
  • Proper nutrition 
  • Toilet needs 
  • A safe and habitable home environment 
  • Family or personal relationships 
  • Local community facilities or services 
  • Clothing yourself properly 

How does a care needs assessment work?

During a care needs assessment, the local council’s representative (a social worker or occupational therapist) will try to assess how well you can manage everyday tasks such as cleaning, cooking, or dressing. For example, they may ask you to describe any difficulties you may have with making a cup of tea or getting out of bed in the morning. 

This assessment is supposed to cover all key issues, be that physical, physiological, or emotional. It’s important that you are completely open and honest during your assessment and give as much relevant detail as possible. Downplaying any problems may result in an unsuitable care plan for you. 

What does a needs assessment look at?

The person carrying out your needs assessment will be looking at all aspects of your quality of life, including your mobility, and any risks to your physical and emotional wellbeing. Most importantly, they will also take into consideration your wishes and what kind of support you feel you need. 

Care needs assessment questions

In order to properly assess you, they will ask you specific questions about your health needs and day-to-day living to get an idea of the care you will need. Some example questions may be: 

  • What medical problems do you have currently, or have had in the past? 
  • Do you take any medications? 
  • Are you able to take care of yourself? 
  • Are you able to take care of your home? 
  • Is your accommodation suitable for your needs? 
  • Can you get to the shops and other facilities and services? 
  • Do you have any problems with mobility? 
  • Have you ever had a fall?
  • Do you experience physical health problems, including issues with hearing, your sight, or incontinence? , 
  • Do you have any mental health problems, such as depression? 
  • Do you have problems with memory? 
  • What is your diet like? 
  • Do you eat regularly? 
  • Do you drink or smoke? 
  • Do you exercise regularly?
  • Are there any hobbies and interests you would like to maintain? 

Be prepared to be asked personal questions during your care needs assessment. These are deliberately asked to find out everything necessary to make an astute and fair assessment of your needs. This may include questions relating to any trauma in your past; although these topics may be difficult to discuss, please share any relevant information during the assessment.

What happens after the assessment?

You should receive the results of your needs assessment within a week. This will identify your assessed needs and what kind of support would best help you, such as incontinence care, meals on wheels, or elderly live-in care. A care plan can then be created.

What if I’m told I don’t need care?

If you don’t qualify for care, your local council can still give you free advice as well as guidance on where you can get the help you need from your community. 

How can I best prepare for the assessment?

The best way to prepare for a care needs assessment is to sit down and think about what you would like to say. Think about all of the aspects of your life, including your social life, physical pursuits, mental health, emotional wellbeing and cultural interests.

Make a list of any key difficulties you have and what services you think may help you live more comfortably. Don’t assume that the person assessing you will already know about any of your issues, and be as descriptive as possible. 

Telephone help

If you are still feeling nervous or unsure about your assessment, there are a few resources and helplines available for advice or help. 

Feel free to call:

  • Age UK’s free helpline on 0800 055 6112
  • Independent Age’s free helpline on 0800 319 6789
  • The Family Rights Group’s free helpline on 0808 801 0366

You can also reach out to your local council’s social services department as they would be happy to help. 

Bring someone with you

Bring a friend or a family member with you to your assessment. They can offer moral support, take notes, or help you explain your situation better. If you don’t have a friend or relative available, but would like someone to be there with you, you can use an advocate. 

Advocates can be there as a spokesperson and help you understand or remember information. Find an advocate in your area and read more on the gov.uk website here

How does paying for care work?

Social care may or may not be free. After your care needs assessment, you will be able to identify what care you need, and you may be expected to pay some or all of the cost. However, it is possible for the council to pay for all of your care. This is determined through a financial assessment called a means test. 

Financial assessment and the means test

After you have been assessed and agreed upon a support plan, you can complete the financial assessment to determine how much you or your local council will contribute to your care. The means test will ask about your income, finances, savings, and property. 

How much you pay for care will depend on your own personal circumstances and the type of support you need. For example, if you are going into a care home, a “personal expenses allowance” will ensure that you have at least £24.90 a week after you’ve paid your share of care fees. 

If you would like to read more, our comprehensive elderly live in care guide has more information on funding for home care and elderly live-in care costs. 

Our experienced and friendly care team would love to speak with you and answer any questions about care needs assessments and any specialised care you may need. Get in touch today by calling 0118 449 2373 or using our contact form.

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