Carers' assessments are a way of identifying your needs as a carer.
They look at your role as a carer: how being a carer affects you, how much caring you can realistically do (while still allowing you to be involved in other activities outside caring), and any help you may need.
Who can have a carer’s assessment?
Anyone who provides or intends to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis has a legal right to a carer’s assessment. Once a carer has requested a carer’s assessment, the local council has a duty to carry one out.
Note: No definition of ‘substantial’ is given, so if you feel you devote a lot of time to caring for someone and you do this regularly, you should meet this condition. Even if you do not provide a lot of hours of care, you can still have an assessment if your caring role has a big impact on your life.
If you share caring responsibilities with another person, or more than one person, you can each have a carer’s assessment so long as you are each providing a substantial amount of care on a regular basis.
You don’t necessarily have to live with the person you are looking after or be caring full time to have a carer’s assessment. You may be juggling work and care and this is having a big impact on your life.
If you are a carer aged 16 or over you can have a carer’s assessment to look at the help that you need, even if the person you look after does not want to have an assessment to look at the help that they need.
Note: If you are a carer aged under 16 and the person you are looking after does not want an assessment of their own, you may be able to get help through a Children Act assessment if you are considered to be a ‘child in need'.back to top
How to arrange a carer's assessment
You can request a carer’s assessment by contacting the local council adult social services department of the person you look after.
It may be possible to request an assessment online, or by phone, but it is still a good idea to follow up this request in writing.
You should include:
- your name and contact details
- the date
- your request for a carer’s assessment
- the name and contact details of the person you look after
- the care needs of the person you look after
- any help you need as a carer
The carer’s assessment process
The carer’s assessment will be carried out by a social worker or another professional nominated by social services. In some areas, social services ask local voluntary organisations to carry out the assessment, but arrangements should still be made through social services. Your local council should explain who will carry out the assessment.
The assessment will normally be carried out at a face to face meeting. However, many local councils ask carers to complete a self-assessment questionnaire before the meeting to help carers and professionals focus on the help the carer needs.
The assessment should be carried out in a convenient and private place. For example, this could be at a social services’ office or at your home. Assessments can be done over the phone if this is the best way for you, eg it fits in with your routine or offers more privacy. The social worker carrying out the assessment should discuss this with you beforehand.
The carer’s assessment can be carried out with or without the person you are looking after being present. It is up to you. You can also have a family member, a friend or a professional person such as a Carers Support Worker from a carer’s centre with you if you wish. Having someone with you should be discussed when the assessment meeting is being arranged.
Your carer’s assessment should cover:
- your caring role
- your health
- your feelings and choices about caring
- work, study, leisure
- planning for emergencies (such as a Carer Emergency Scheme)
If you are not asked questions about these issues, you can raise them in the assessment meeting. In the next section we have put together a list of questions which should give you a clearer idea of the help you may need in relation to these areas.
It is important that you give as complete a picture as you can about your caring role and are as honest as you can be about the care that you provide and how you feel about being a carer. This way, you and the person carrying out the assessment can discuss what sort of help may make it easier for you to take up caring or continue in your caring role.back to top
Questions to help you prepare
By answering the following questions, you should get a much clearer idea of your needs and you can then discuss with your social worker the services that might be most helpful to you to meet these needs.
- How many hours a week do you provide care? Include all the time you spend with the person you care for, the things you do for them and how long they take you.
- Do you help the person you are looking after with:
- Going to the toilet?
- Other personal care?
- Keeping an eye on them?
- Dealing with money, eg cashing pension?
- Do you have to help during the day or night, or both?
- Does anyone else help? If so, for how long?
- Would you like some help (or extra help) with these jobs? List the tasks you would like help with (putting the most important first).
- Are you able to spend enough time on other family responsibilities, eg being with your children?
- Does the person you care for have any health problems you find hard to deal with? Describe them as fully as you can.
- Do you have any health problems? If so, are they made worse by your caring role? Describe them as fully as you can.
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Do you feel you are suffering from stress or depression?
- Is caring having a negative impact on your health?
Feelings and choices about your caring role
- Do you feel that you do not have a choice about providing care?
- If you feel that you cannot carry on at all, or can only carry on if you reduce the amount of caring you do, tell the social worker. It is not unusual to feel this way and it is important they know how you really feel.
- What would you most like to change about your situation?
- Do you work? If so, for how many hours a week?
- Does your employer know that you are a carer – do they know about your rights, e.g. to time off in an emergency?
- Do you feel you can manage to work and provide care? If you cannot manage or are at risk of not managing - do explain this.
- What would make working/caring easier for you?
- Would you like to start work/study?
- Are there things that you find enjoyable and relaxing that you cannot do anymore because of your caring responsibilities? (eg a hobby, visiting friends, going to the cinema).
- When was the last time you had a whole day to yourself to do as you pleased?
- Do you live with the person you care for? Is the arrangement satisfactory? If not, why not?
- Does the person you care for have any difficulties moving around their home? (e.g. can they climb the stairs, or have a bath on their own?)
Do you have to help them? If so, are you able to do this safely and without causing yourself any pain or injury? Special equipment could make life easier for the person you look after and caring easier for you.
The outcome of the assessment
Once a social worker has carried out the assessment they should then determine whether you meet their eligibility criteria.
The eligibility criteria are based on the level of risk posed to your caring role if no help is provided. The levels of risk are critical, substantial, moderate and low. The local council can choose which levels of risk it provides services for. Local councils can also choose not to provide services to carers.
However, if the risk posed to your caring role is assessed as being critical then the local council must take steps to make sure that this risk is addressed. They can address this risk by either providing services directly to the carer, or by providing services to the person receiving care.
A critical risk arises when:
- The carer’s life may be threatened by their caring role.
- Major health problems have developed or will develop.
- The carer feels that he/she has lost a large amount of control over the decisions they make about the nature of tasks they will perform (eg whether to help the person they are looking after with personal care) and how much time they will give to their caring role (eg the carer feels that caring is round the clock because the person they care for won’t accept outside help).
- The carer is unable to look after their own domestic needs and other daily routines while sustaining their caring role.
- Involvement in employment or other responsibilities (eg looking after other family members) is, or will be, at risk.
- Many significant social support systems and relationships are, or will be, at risk (eg unable to maintain friendships, visit relatives etc).
If the council do not provide either you or the person you are looking after with appropriate services, you may need to make a complaint or take other action to challenge this decision. For more information about complaints, please contact the Carers UK Adviceline.back to top
The help you will get
If the local council has decided that help is going to be provided, you should be given a 'carers plan' which outlines the support needs that have been identified, how these will be addressed, and whether you need to make a contribution towards the cost of services.
There are two ways that help can be provided:
1. Through support to the person you are looking after which in turn could benefit you.
This help is provided under the community care assessment and therefore any contribution towards the cost of services would be the responsibility of the person you are looking after. An example of this is respite care which gives you a break, but it is the person you are looking after who is in receipt of the service. If a service is provided to the person you are looking after, then it will be recorded on the care plan of the person you are looking after.
2. Through direct support to you.
This is provided under the carer's assessment and would be included in your 'carer's' plan.
Note: If the person you are looking after is a child then help for the child and the carer should be provided under the Children Act assessment. However if your needs have not been properly addressed under this assessment, you can ask for a carer's assessment for your own needs.
If the local council decides that you are eligible for help, they can:
- Provide you with services themselves.
- Provide you with services through another organisation.
- Provide you with money so that you can arrange and pay for your own services (usually called direct payments). The local council must agree that the service meets your assessed needs.
Note: You can request direct payments instead of having services provided directly to you.
For more information on direct payments you can click here, or you can contact the Carers UK Adviceline.
Some examples of the kind of help that could be available following a carer's assessment are:
- driving lessons
- help with taxi fares
- help with housework and gardening
- a mobile phone
- a short holiday for the carer to enable them to have time to themselves
- a computer for a carer who cannot access computer services from a local library because they felt unable to leave the person they were looking after
- repairs and insurance costs for a car, where transport was crucial to the caring role
- gym membership
- leisure classes to relieve stress
You can accept some or all of the help you are offered. If you do not feel the help you are offered is necessary or appropriate, you can refuse it. Before refusing help please do talk about your concerns with social services as it may be that more suitable arrangements can be made. You may also refuse services because of the charges you are asked to pay for them.back to top
What you might have to pay
There can be a financial charge for services. If so, the local council will look at how much money the person being assessed has coming in and their savings.
Charging – what you might have to pay
The amount a council can charge varies and each sets its own rules within guidance provided by government.
Only the person receiving the services can be charged for them. A carer cannot be charged for services provided to the person they look after and the person they look after cannot be charged for services provided to the carer. However if you are caring for your spouse the situation is more complicated and you should seek advice.
What you will be charged depends on the services you receive, your income and any capital you have. This is how the council work out what you will pay:
- Step 1: They decide which services they will provide and their cost.
- Step 2: They check if a person has savings or assets (capital) above a certain amount.
- Step 3: They work out how much income a person has coming in.
- Step 4: To ensure that a person has enough money to live on the council has to leave them with a protected amount. This amount is set at a level which is broadly equal to the amount you would get if you claimed Income Support or Pension Credit plus an extra 25%.
- Step 5: The council will charge an amount from your income and capital above the protected amount.
How charges are worked out is very complicated so do seek advice if you have any queries about the charge.
Capital - how they treat your savings or assets
If the council makes a charge they will apply rules on how much capital a person can have. If you have more than this amount then you are likely to have to pay the full cost of any services provided.
In England and Wales the amount is £23,250 and £22,750 in Scotland. The council can use a more generous figure if they want to.
There is also a lower limit of £14,250 (£14,000 in Scotland). If the capital is between £14,250 and £23,250 (£14,000 and £22,750 in Scotland), £1 a week for every £250 is taken into account as income.
So, if a person has income of £120 a week and savings of £15,000 the local council will treat them as having an income of £123 a week.
The value of the property in which the person lives should not be taken into account as capital.
When deciding how much income a person has for the purposes of charging for services, only some of the income a person has coming in is taken into account. Certain types of income are always ignored including:
- paid earnings
- tax credits
- the savings credit part of Pension Credit
- payments from the Independent Living Fund
- the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment
Disability related benefits
The council can treat disability related benefits, such as the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA) or the severe disability premium in means tested benefits as income. If they do, they should deduct any disability related expenditure from the disability benefit before they take it into account as income. So, if a person gets DLA paid at £54.45 per week but has £30 per week of disability expenditure they will have an income from their DLA of only £24.45.
Below is a list of some examples of disability related expenditure but it is not a comprehensive list. Other items can be included as long as they are reasonably needed for a person to live at home.
- laundry and specialist washing powders
- special diets
- special clothing or footwear
- extra bedding needed, for example, because of incontinence
- extra fuel costs
- garden maintenance, private cleaning or domestic help if needed because of disability and not provided by social services
- privately arranged care services, including respite care
- the purchase, maintenance and repair of disability related equipment
- transport costs needed because of disability, over and above the mobility component of DLA or PIP
- complementary therapies
Some local councils allow standard amounts. Remember – if the actual costs is higher – and providing the costs are reasonable in the individual circumstances – the council should not insist upon only paying the standard amount.
Other benefits will be taken into account as income in full.back to top