Beth Britton writes about obtaining assessments, what to expect, and how coronavirus is impacting what families can access

When you, or someone you care for, needs additional social care support it can feel like a minefield of processes and professionals. For many families it may mean making numerous phone calls and struggling to obtain information. This can add up to frustrations that I know only too well.

As a former carer to my father who had vascular dementia for nineteen years, I went through three assessment processes prior to each of the care homes he moved into during the last nine years of his life. More recently, I have been trying to support a family member who is living with dementia and her husband. The husband is now an unpaid family carer; looking after his wife, whilst trying to navigate the complexities of the health and social care systems.

Where to begin – Obtaining an assessment

The pathway to accessing social care services begins with assessments. There are two main types you need to be aware of. A ‘Needs Assessment’ is for a person who is ill, disabled or ageing and potentially requires social care. A ‘Carers Assessment’ is for unpaid carers (often a family member) who is supporting someone with care needs. A person’s local council have responsibly for both of these assessments, although they may use an external organisation to carry out their Carer’s Assessments.

Someone may automatically contact you to arrange an assessment, but often families need to be proactive and request these services directly from their local council’s adult social care department.

A Needs Assessment for a person who is ill, disabled or ageing

Carers UK say:

“The local council has a legal duty to carry out a needs assessment once they become aware of the person’s potential needs. This means that anyone can request a needs assessment for another person.”

A Carer’s Assessment for an adult carer of a person (over 18 years of age) who is ill, disabled or ageing

Carers UK say:

“Any carer who appears to have needs for support can have an assessment by the local council.

You will be entitled to an assessment regardless of the amount or type of care you provide, your financial means or your level of need for support. You don’t necessarily have to live with the person you are looking after or be caring full-time to have an assessment.

You can have an assessment whether or not the person you are looking after has had a needs assessment, or if the local council have decided they are not eligible for support.”

What to expect

Due to current coronavirus restrictions, a face-to-face appointment for an assessment may not be offered. In the case of my family member, a social worker did attend their home (in PPE) to conduct all of their assessments.

Once the ‘Needs Assessment’ has been carried out, if the outcome is that the person requires social care services, the council should then carry out a financial assessment to decide how these services will be paid for.

If the person has capital (assets) above the limit for accessing free social care, they will either:

  • Have to pay a contribution towards their care (the local council will pay the remainder).
  • Be considered a ‘self-funder’ and need to pay for all of their care. Self-funders can still ask the council to provide care, but the council can charge both for the care itself and the cost of arranging and managing that care.

How coronavirus is impacting assessments

The Care Act (2014) details the rights citizens have and the assessments councils must offer. However, there are some new Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which Carers UK explain as follows:

“Local authorities must respond to requests for care and support, but if your local authority has decided to “switch on” easements, detailed assessments may not be carried out as before. If you’re asking for a Needs Assessment for the person you care for or a Carer’s Assessment for yourself, we would suggest asking if there are any delays or additional information you need to be aware of, and discussing any concerns you have.

All assessments and reviews must be followed up and completed in full once the easements end. People will not currently have to undergo a financial assessment but may be charged retrospectively for any care and support received during this period.”

More information is available from the government here.

If your council have ‘switched on’ easements:

  • Follow the advice above from Carers UK to find out how long these easements could last.
  • You have the option to arrange care yourself if you need care urgently and have the means to pay for it. You may want to contact your local Association of Care Providers (this is an example from Oxfordshire You can find other Association details on our Care Associations webpage. Alternatively, an independent organisation like Autumna can offer further support to find a local care provider.

You could also speak to your GP about beginning the process of assessment for NHS Continuing Healthcare if the person needing care has substantial healthcare needs. Healthcare professionals conduct assessments for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding, so local council easements won’t impact these.

Need more information?

Charities that support carers and older people may be able to offer you further advice. They include:

About the author:

Beth Britton is an award-winning content creator, consultant, trainer, mentor, campaigner and speaker. She is an expert in ageing, health and social care