This advice applies to England. Change country
Social care and support
If you’re elderly, disabled or have an illness, you may be able to get care and support arranged by your local council to help you live as normally as possible.
Sometimes the council will pay for all of your care needs, and sometimes you’ll need to contribute to this.
You could be eligible for help including:
- adaptations to your home, for example a stair lift
- money to arrange and pay for your own care
- 24 hour care at a care home or a house with a care scheme
The NHS has more information on what social care services are available.
You’ll need to contact the social services department of your local council and ask them to carry out an assessment of your needs, known as a needs assessment. A carer, friend or relative can also ask for an assessment for you.
The council must give you an assessment if you appear to need care and support. It doesn’t matter whether you’ll be eligible for help or not.
If you need urgent care, you may be able to access services before being assessed - your council should tell you whether you’re eligible. You’ll still be assessed by the council afterwards.
What to expect from a needs assessment
A needs assessment isn’t an exam - it’s a discussion with a trained person either from the council, the NHS or another organisation that the council works with. They could be a social worker, a rehabilitation worker or someone else who will be familiar with your situation.
You’ll be able to discuss:
- your needs and how they impact on your well-being - for instance, you may need help with getting dressed or support to get to work
- the outcomes that matter to you - for example, you may be lonely and want to make new friends
- your circumstances - for example, whether you live alone or whether someone supports you
Assessments can be done face to face, on the phone or online.
Anyone involved in your care will be invited to attend, for example your carer. You can also ask a family member or friend to help and represent you, or you can ask the council to find you someone independent to represent you.
Your finances won’t be looked at as part of the needs assessment.
What happens after an assessment
The council will use the information you’ve given them to work out what care and support you may be eligible for, and the best way for you to get it.
If you’re eligible for help from the council, you’ll be given a care plan outlining the help you can receive.
You may be told that you’re not eligible for care. You should receive a letter explaining why. It should also tell you about other organisations or charities that may be able to help you.
NHS Choices provides more information about how the council decides who's eligible for care.
Paying for care
Most people pay something towards their care. How much you’ll have to spend depends on your personal and financial circumstances. You’ll most likely have a financial assessment to determine this.
The financial assessment will take into account:
- your income, for example a pension
- whether you get benefits or other financial support
- your expenses, eg paying bills or rent
You’ll have to pay for the full cost of your care if your 'capital' (savings or investments) are worth more than:
- £23,250 if you live in England
- £24,000 if you live in Wales
If you own a home, this won’t be taken into account unless you’re paying for a care home.
AgeUK explains the different rules for paying for care homes.
Arranging and paying for your own care
If you’re eligible for help from the council, you’ll have the option of arranging and paying for your own care. The council will give you money to do this, known as direct payments.
The amount of direct payments you get should cover the cost of buying services you're eligible for. This includes any extra costs you have to pay in order to get the service. For example, if you employ your own carer, you will have to pay recruitment costs, holiday and sick pay and insurance.
You may have to make a contribution towards the cost of services. The council will work this out in the same way it works out how much you have to pay towards services it arranges itself. They will either deduct your contribution before paying you the direct payment or pay the direct payment in full and you will have to pay your contribution back.
You’ll have responsibilities if you arrange your own care, so you should think carefully before you make a decision. You’ll have to do things like:
- choosing the best organisations, people or services to provide your care
- keeping records and accounting for how the money is spent
- taking on the legal role of an employer if you're using the payment to pay for a care worker
The council should explain to you in detail what you have to do.
NHS Choices provides more information about direct payments.
If you need further help or advice, there are a number of organisations you can contact.
Complaining about social care services
You should complain to your council if you’re unhappy with something to do with social care and support. For example, you could complain if you weren’t happy with how your needs assessment was carried out.