Social care services you could get

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

This advice is about community and social care services for adults in Scotland. This page should help you identify what your needs are and possible services that might be available in your area.

What is social care

Social care is different types of support arranged and provided to you by the council. It's also known as community care or care at home. The aim is to help you to live an independent and healthy life in the community, in your own home if possible.

The services you get should be specific to your individual needs. The council does a free assessment to decide whether you need social care support, and what your needs are. This is usually done by the social work department. 

If a child under 18 is disabled, they're entitled to an assessment of their needs under different laws. Find out more about children who need local council services

Who needs social care

You might need an assessment for extra support in your daily life because you:

  • are older

  • are disabled

  • have a mental health condition

  • have learning difficulties or autism

  • have issues with alcohol or drug misuse

  • have chronic health conditions, like HIV/AIDs

Or you're a:

  • carer for someone else

  • young disabled person (aged 16 or over)

What services could you get

The council will decide whether you need social care services based on an assessment. The assessment might happen at your home. 

An assessment might find that you need, for example:

  • help with washing and dressing

  • regular meals and better nutrition

  • access to mental health services

After the assessment the council decides what services it will arrange or provide to you. Each council decides what it will provide and how. It must publish a plan for community care services in its area and have policies that it applies. 

The council might not arrange a specific service even if you've been assessed as needing it. This might be because the risk to your independence or health if you don't get care and support is low. There are stronger duties to provide support to some people, like disabled people. 

If the council agrees that you should get support, there might be different ways to meet your particular needs, for example a meals-on-wheels service or a lunch club. You might be offered one or a combination of options. 

If you're not offered a service that you think you need, you can challenge the council's decision. You can also choose whether to accept the services you're offered.

Do you have to pay for social care

Some community care services are free but for some the council might ask you to pay a charge. The council will usually assess your income and savings to see how much you can afford to pay. You could also choose to receive payments to organise your own care. 

Alternatively, you can also decide to pay for services privately with your own money. 

What services do you need

You have an important role in an assessment by saying what you think will best meet your needs. Think about your health and your family circumstances, what you find difficult and what could be easier. This means you will be able to talk about this in your assessment. 

Think about:

  • what's difficult - what do you find difficult to do without help in your home or in the community, now or in the future

  • the impact on you and your family - particularly anyone who is caring for you a significant amount of the time

  • what's available in your area - so you can ask for it if it meets your need

Your needs could be:

  • physical 

  • psychological 

  • a need that might develop in the future

Most people have a number of different aspects of living that they need help with so will need a combination of different services. 

If your home is difficult to use or move around in

Think about what you find difficult to do in your house. 

For example, do you have difficulty:

  • climbing steps up to your front door or stairs in your house

  • getting into bed

  • showering or bathing - because you don't have an accessible bathroom 

Depending on your needs there may be possible changes to your house, like:

  • installing a stair lift

  • a downstairs toilet

  • adding handrails 

  • getting personal alarms fitted - in case you fall or hurt yourself

What you get will depend on your individual needs and how the council meets that need in your area. 

If you're disabled the council has a legal duty to help with adaptations to your home.

If you need help to stay active or engaged in the community

Think about:

  • how often you're able to get out and about in your community

  • how getting out more or keeping in touch with others could improve your mental or physical health

  • what could make it easier to keep in contact with others or stay up-to-date with what's happening in the community

  • any activities you've heard about that might be helpful to you - like a support group for people with your disability

You might be able to get, for example:

  • a referral to a club, day centre, group meeting or activity in your area

  • transport to activities

  • a radio, telephone, television or library service

  • meals on wheels

  • a community alarm for emergency help

If you need help to cook, eat, wash, dress or take medicine 

Think about what personal tasks you find difficult or already need help with, for example:

  • getting dressed and undressed

  • having a shower or bath

  • shaving and brushing your teeth

  • using the toilet

  • cooking or eating - you might also have special dietary needs

  • medicine - like remembering it, measuring doses and taking it

  • using medical equipment 

  • getting into and out of bed

You might be able to do these things yourself but it takes you much longer, you're in pain or you can't do it as well as you need to. 

Depending on your needs you might get:

  • personal care - a professional carer will come to your home at agreed times - more about personal care

  • equipment - like bed pans, bathing aids, specialist beds, cushions or speech aids 

  • respite care - time away from the home or a professional carer to give you and your family time off

  • meals on wheels or meals outside the home

Free personal care 

This involves a professional carer coming to your home at agreed times. This could be up to two or three times a day, if you need this. 

From 1 April 2019, everyone in Scotland who is assessed as needing personal care will get it for free. You can choose to have the care provided by the council or to get direct payments from the council to arrange your care yourself.

If you need help with cleaning, laundry or shopping

Think about what you find difficult or already need help with, for example:

  • cleaning or gardening

  • shopping

  • paying bills

  • washing clothes - like loading the washing machine and hanging them up to dry

Depending on your needs possible services might be:

  • home care - a professional carer coming to your home. This is also known as 'home help' or 'care at home' 

  • laundry services

  • cleaning services

If you or your carer need a break from caring

You might already have someone helping you, like a member of your family. Carers are also entitled to have their needs assessed in their own right. 

If you or your carer need a break you might need respite care. This might be:

  • temporary home care from a professional carer

  • a day or night sitter

  • a holiday

  • accommodation in a care home

  • NHS funded care (for rehabilitation) after discharge from hospital

You can find more information and search for short break and respite care services in Scotland on the Shared Care Scotland website.

Find out more about how to get help and support if you're a carer

If you can’t stay in your home because it's not suitable or you need more care

The council should try to help you stay in your own home as long as possible. But it might suggest a move if an assessment shows your needs are too complex to be addressed by care in your home. 

The council might suggest moving to housing where you can get support that meets your care needs, like:

  • sheltered housing 

  • a care home or nursing home 

  • purpose-built housing for disabled residents

  • supported accommodation

  • halfway housing, which may be designed to help make an eventual move to independent living hostels

If you have the capacity to make decisions, you can't be made to move - it's your choice. You'll need to think carefully about whether it's the right thing to do.

A person who has guardianship or power of attorney may need to make the decision if the person needing care can't, for example if they have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. 

Check what's provided in your area

Check your council's most recent community care plans. It should be available on their website, or you can contact them to ask for a copy.

Find your local council's social care department website on Care Information Scotland

The council should have information on:

  • their services, and any plans to change existing services

  • how their assessment process works 

  • their policy for charging for services

  • how to make representations and complaints

Next Steps

Find out how to get an assessment and how services can be paid for