The Care Act 2014 now gives local authorities’ a duty to arrange or provide care and support services to those in their area in need of it.

In order to find out who needs assistance from the local authority they are required to carry out a care needs assessment of people who appear to be in need of care and support. This will determine whether they have a need for care and support and if so, will inform what the care package should include.

How do I request an assessment?

You should make contact with your local authority adult social services team to request an assessment. Most authorities will have a dedicated telephone number for assessment requests and some can let you start the process through an online form. You will need to provide some information such as your personal details and medical conditions.

The threshold to carry out an assessment is a low one, a person simply needs to appear to be in need of care and support. It is unlawful for a local authority to refuse to assess someone for any other reason such as their finances or medical condition.

The authority should carry out the assessment in a reasonable timeframe. Some cases may be urgent and require an assessment within a few days whereas others may be less so. We consider anything longer than 6 weeks without good reason to be unreasonable.

What is an assessment?

This is where a person’s needs for care and support is recorded. It must include:

  • the impact of your needs on your wellbeing (as set out above)
  • the outcomes that you want to achieve in day-to-day life
  • whether the provision of care and support could contribute to achieving the outcomes

The local authority must involve you as much as you want, take into account all of your needs including those that are being met by a carer and also consult with anyone you may identify, such as the carer.

Assessments can take place at a meeting, over the telephone, through an online form, through a paper form or a combination of all of these. However the assessment is carried out the local authority must do so in a way which is appropriate for your needs. It is usually carried out by a social worker but if not it must be someone who is suitably qualified.

Is there an eligibility criteria?

The assessor will then decide whether you meet the eligibility criteria for support. They will go through the below list of outcomes with you:

  1. managing and maintaining nutrition
  2. maintaining personal hygiene
  3. managing toilet needs
  4. being appropriately clothed (including being able to get dressed)
  5. being able to make use of your home safely
  6. maintaining a habitable home environment
  7. developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships
  8. accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering
  9. making use of facilities or services in the local community including public transport, and recreational facilities or services
  10. carrying out any caring responsibilities you have for a child

They will decide whether you are unable to achieve an outcome if you are:

  1. unable to achieve it without assistance
  2. able to achieve it without assistance but doing so causes you significant pain, distress or anxiety
  3. able to achieve it without assistance but doing so endangers or is likely to endanger the health or safety of you, or of others, or
  4. able to achieve it without assistance but take significantly longer than would normally be expected

You meet the eligibility threshold if:

  • you have needs connected with any kind of disability, physical or mental illness; and
  • those needs mean you are unable to achieve two or more required outcomes in the list below, and
  • that results, or is likely to result, in a significant impact on your wellbeing

The local authority will have a duty to meet unmet needs that satisfy the eligibility criteria. However, if a person is not ordinarily resident in the authority’s area or their financial resources are above the financial limit there will be no duty to meet those needs.

How will my eligible needs be met?

The next stage will be the process of identifying how your care or support needs can be met and how much it will cost. This will be recorded in a care plan.

The local authority must take all reasonable steps to involve you and your carers in this process. It should be a very flexible process with everyone involved making suggestions as to how to meet your needs.

What should be in the Care Plan?

The care plan must:

  • Describe what the needs identified in the assessment are;
  • Detail how those needs meet the eligibility criteria
  • Explain which of the needs which the local authority intends to meet and how
  • Set out a personal budget
  • Include advice and information about what can be done to reduce your needs and to prevent or delay them becoming worse
  • If needs are to be met through a direct payment explain the amount and frequency of the payments

How will my needs be met?

The Care Act does not have a set list of the services that should be provided. This is a suggested list:

  • accommodation in a care home or premises of another type;
  • care and support at home or the community;
  • counselling or other types of social work;
  • goods and facilities; and
  • information, advice and advocacy

Once a care plan is in place it must be reviewed regularly to ensure that it is appropriate, there are no changes in your needs and that the funding is adequate.