A good first step is to ask your local authority for a free care assessment. They’ll look at your care needs and finances to understand what level of support you need, and how it’ll be paid for.
Even if you’re planning to pay for care yourself, it’s still wise to ask for this free assessment to help you decide what care is best for you.
Your right to an assessment
Anyone who is 'ordinarily resident', meaning they consider their home to be in the local authority area, is entitled to an assessment of their care needs.
If it’s not clear which area you’re settled in, it’s up to the local authorities to settle it between themselves. But one of them needs to take responsibility for assessing your needs and, if needed, paying for your care, until they resolve this.
How to arrange an assessment
To arrange an assessment, get in touch with your local authority’s Adult Social Care team. You can do this for yourself or ask a friend, family member, GP or community nurse to do this for you. If you’re arranging an assessment for someone else, you’ll need to ask their permission.
Waiting times for an assessment
There are no national rules for how quickly an assessment must be done but waiting times depend on the urgency of your need and how ‘at risk’ you are. Your council has a duty to do the assessment as soon as is appropriate and reasonable.
Understanding the different assessment methods
Your care assessment can be done over the phone or in person, usually with a social worker or a care manager from the social services department.
- Face-to-face assessment – A meeting in person with a qualified assessor, such as a social worker
- Support self-assessment – You’re given the tools and resources to assess your own needs
- Joint assessment – Where different agencies work together to assess you once, rather than asking you to have multiple assessments
- Online or phone assessment – If your needs are less complex, you might be asked to complete your assessment online or over the phone. If this isn’t right for you, you have a right to ask for an assessment in person
- Combined assessment – Where your needs assessment is combined with an assessment of your carer’s needs. You’re both entitled to separate assessments if you prefer.
Recognising that you might need care can be challenging, and so can asking for support. A care assessment will help you to understand what you need to help protect your quality of life, so it’s worth taking some time beforehand to think, and talk it through with loved ones. Here are some ideas to help you get ready:
- Think in advance about anything you want to talk about in the assessment and make a note of it.
- Make a list of your needs as you see them, including any tasks you find difficult.
- Keep a diary for a few days, noting the activities you find hard or can’t manage at all. Don’t forget to include notes on your mood and how you feel.
- Help the person assessing you to understand your health background by giving them as much detail as possible, like a list of medication or contact details for your doctor.
- Ask for support from a friend or loved one - they can join you for your assessment if you want them to.
- If you think you’ll have trouble communicating during your assessment, let the council know in advance so they can arrange the right support for you.
Preparing for your assessment
Part 1: Looking at your care and support needs
To help you and your local authority understand what sort of care is right for you.
Part 2: Deciding on the right level of care
And whether the council will provide your care or arrange it for you.
Part 3: Looking at your finances
To decide who'll cover the cost of the care you need.
Help for carers
You’re also entitled to an assessment of your needs if you’re looking after a loved one as an unpaid carer. The local authority may then be able to check what state benefits you could claim and offer you respite care or training.
You can ask for a carers assessment at the same time as the local authority looks into the needs of the person needing care, or you can ask for it separately by contacting the Adult Social Care team.
Understanding your options
While they’re the most well known, care homes aren’t your only option. Find out about other potential options, such as home adaptations.
Paying for care
If you want to find out how you could pay for a retirement home, use our Care Costs Calculator.
Whether you need some help at home or want to find out more about Care Homes in your area, we have information on where to search and what questions to ask.