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What is a care needs assessment?

If you think your parent or other older relative or friend needs help with day-to-day living, you can apply to their local authority for a confidential, free care needs assessment.

This care needs assessment is used to determine the level of care and support that an individual needs.

It’s usually the first step in getting help from social services. If the assessment determines that someone needs help, then the aim will be to develop a care plan that sets out the type of care and support that the person needs, and how it will be provided.

If you think that you or someone you know may need a care needs assessment, you should contact your local social services department. They will be able to advise you on the process and help you to arrange an assessment.

What help is available?

There are a number of different types of care and support that can be provided through social services. These include:

  • Personal care, such as help with washing, dressing, and eating through a carer
  • Domestic help, such as help with cooking, cleaning, and shopping
  • Home modifications, such as installing ramps or grab rails
  • Day care, such as social activities and meals
  • Residential care, such as living in a care home

How does the assessment work?

The assessment is usually carried out by a social worker or other healthcare professional. It can be face-to-face or on the phone. The assessment will look at the individual’s physical, mental, and emotional needs, as well as their social and financial circumstances.

The purpose of a care needs assessment is to:

  • identify the person’s needs
  • assess the person’s ability to meet their own needs
  • decide what type of care and support the person needs
  • make recommendations for the provision of care and support

There’s some excellent advice on preparing for a care needs assessment on the NHS website.

What are the qualifications for help?

Once the assessment has been completed, the local authority will decide if the individual qualifies for help from the council. They do this by comparing the assessment results with nationally agreed criteria.

Qualification for help tends to rest on whether the person:

  • has a physical or mental impairment or illness that affects their ability to carry out everyday activities
  • needs help to meet basic needs, such as washing, dressing, and eating
  • is at risk of harm if you do not receive help.

What is a care plan?

If your relative does qualify for help from the council, the local authority should work with them to develop a care plan. The care plan will set out the type of care and support that they need, and how it will be provided. The care plan will be reviewed regularly to make sure that it is still meeting the individual’s needs.

Who pays for care?

The local authority will pay for some of the care and support that is needed. However, recipients may also have to contribute towards the cost of their care. The amount they have to contribute will depend on their income and assets.

What is the assessment says no?

If they do not qualify for help from the council, your relative may have to look at other sources, such as charities, family or friends.

Anyone who disagrees with their assessment has the right to complain, initially to the council and then to the local government and social care ombudsman.

Your relative should also make sure they are receiving any other government help to which they are entitled, such as Attendance Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, and they may consider the Deferred Payment Scheme.

There are also care loan schemes available.

What is the Deferred Payment Scheme?

The Deferred Payment Scheme is a government-backed scheme that allows people who need care home or supported living accommodation to delay paying for their care until they sell their home or die.

The scheme is available to people who need to move temporarily or permanently to a care or nursing home. It’s not suitable for people who need extra support while staying in their own home.

Currently (July 2023) their home must be worth more than £23,250 in England, £26,250 in Scotland, or £24,000 in Wales.

They must not have any other assets that are worth more than £14,250.

If they meet the criteria, they can apply for a deferred payment agreement with their local authority. Do note that there will be interest to pay on the deferred payments.

You can find a really helpful guide to deferred payment schemes on the ukcareguide web site.

What is a care loan?

A care loan is a type of loan that is specifically designed to help people pay for care costs. Care loans can be used to pay for a variety of care services, including residential care, home care, personal care, domestic help, mobility aids, and daptations to the home.

Care loans are usually offered by banks, building societies, and other financial institutions. It is important to shop around and compare rates before applying for a loan.

How much one can borrow will depend on your relative’s income and assets. They will also need to make regular repayments on the loan, which will be taken out of their income.

If your relative is considering taking out a care loan, it is important to speak to a financial adviser to get advice on the best option for their circumstances.

What are the barriers to receiving social care funding?

The biggest barrier by far is that the demand for care is far outstripping availability.

As of 2021/22, there were 818,000 people in the UK who received publicly funded long-term social care, primarily in care/nursing homes or in their own homes. In addition, there were 224,000 episodes of short-term care provided.

This number is expected to increase as the population ages. By 2035, it is estimated that there will be 2.4 million people in the UK who need long-term social care.

The cost of care needs funding is also expected to increase. In 2021/22, the total cost of adult social care in England was £22.8 billion. By 2035, it is estimated that the cost will have increased to £50 billion.

There are other practical issues to content with, such as the lack of people willing or able to take on what is an essentially low paid but highly pressured role as a carer.

How is the demand being addressed?

The government is currently considering reforms to the adult social care system in England, but has been doing so for some time without creating a definite plan. Changes currently under consideration include:

  • a new lifetime cap on the amount that people have to pay for their care
  • a more generous means-test for local authority financial support
  • a new national care service, which would provide a more consistent level of care across the country

Whatever solution is decided, it could be a long time in implementation.

Find out more

Take a look at these expert articles for more information:


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