Community Care – How to prepare for a care assessment

Have you ever wondered how some people seem to get a whole range of support for their care needs and yet others have little or no support other than what relatives and friends can volunteer?

Many people don’t ask for care support from their local authority because they’re worried they will not qualify for assistance or they think that the whole process is just too complicated. So they soldier on, managing as best as they can and their situation just gets worse and worse.

Of course, these days we hear so much about a shortage of funding for care services and consequent cut backs, so it’s not surprising if you think there is no point in even trying to get your care needs assessed.

If you or someone you care for fall into this category it’s important that you should know what responsibilities local authorities in England and Wales have in relation to care assessments.

Local authorities have a duty to assess care needs
Local authority social services actually have a general statutory duty to undertake care assessments under the Care Act 2014, even when the individual who may be in need has not actually requested an assessment.

Local Authorities under the new Act must assess the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the person.

The authority for your area must carry out a care assessment to determine whether you have any needs that can be supported by means of the local authority providing any of its services to you, if you are normally resident in its area and they are aware that you might have care needs.

The care assessment is separate from a financial assessment that has to be carried out to determine who has to pay for any services provided through the local authority.

What’s the first step to getting a care assessment?
Local authorities in England must follow directions issued by the Department of Health when carrying out care assessments, which require them, if they become aware that a person may have care needs, to consult with that person about the assessment.

So you need to make sure that you or someone on your behalf alerts the local authority about your situation. The local authority will then be aware of your need to be assessed. This can be done by a simple ‘phone call to the adult social care team or even asking your GP or health visitor to make contact for you.

A member of the adult social care team will then arrange to visit you to talk about your situation. That initial discussion is very important and although it usually takes the form of an informal, friendly chat it is the key to getting access to the right kind of services to help you.

Get a family member or friend to be with you
It is important that the responses you give to the various questions you’re asked do not accidentally underplay the nature and extent of the difficulties you have. So ask someone who is close to you and understands your daily routines and has witnessed some of the problems you encounter to be present during the assessment. If you have no one who can be with you during the care assessment see if a local support charity or even a professional adviser, such as your solicitor can attend the meeting to give you reassurance and mention anything that you might forget.

Many of us have a tendency to downplay the effects ill health or frailty have on our lives and it’s therefore easy, inadvertently, to give answers to questions that might suggest that we can cope better on a daily basis than is actually the case.

Be realistic about what you can and can’t do and explain in detail every aspect of your daily life so that the adult social care team is clear about the support you need. Think carefully about your day and night time needs. If you get up in the night to go to the toilet or get a drink can you manage to do that safely or are you at risk from falling or feeling disorientated and hurting yourself?

Many local authorities do not regard the risk of falling at night as being a risk that requires to be taken into consideration when assessing care needs. However, we all know that elderly people and people with a brain injury or physical impairment are more likely to fall and if they do so the consequences can be more serious than for other people.

If you feel that your night-time care needs are not being properly considered you could seek an independent assessment to back up your case.

If you have a relative or friend who cares for you ask them also to give an account of the needs they think you have and of the level of care they provide. They can request a carer’s assessment for themselves as well to see if there is any support the local authority can provide to them.

The purpose of a care assessment is to determine whether any of your needs call for the local authority to provide support services to you. This is what is known as assessing ‘eligible needs’. Your local authority must take all reasonable steps to reach agreement with you and if appropriate, anyone who cares for you, on which community care services are suitable for your needs. The more input you and your family have during the assessment the more likely you are to get access to services that will actually help you to live a better quality of life.

What is your experience of care assessments and of the social care services offered to people with eligible needs?

Did you find the process easy to understand?

Were you given written confirmation of the care assessment outcome?

Did you wish you could have had independent support and legal advice during the care assessment process?

We specialise in advising on community care law and Court of Protection issues. Find out more here.

About the author: Rosamund Evans is a solicitor specialising in issues affecting older people and people with disabilities. Read more

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