1 Introduction

If you think your relative needs help to remain independent or requires supported accommodation to help maintain their quality of life, the first step is often to get a needs assessment (sometimes called a community care assessment) from the social services department of your local authority. Your relative has a right to this assessment and it is free of charge.

Following the needs assessment, the local authority might recommend that your relative needs services such as:

  • practical support at home: prompting medication, doing shopping, laundry
  • care at home: help with personal care, such as washing and dressing, or supervision
  • disability equipment
  • home adaptations: stair lifts, mobility aids
  • sheltered or extra-sheltered housing
  • information and advice on community support.
  • care in a residential or nursing care home
  • respite care.

However, people must meet certain eligibility criteria to qualify for local authority care, which can only be decided upon through a needs assessment.

Local authorities have a duty to assess the needs of anyone they think might have a need for support. This is regardless of your relative’s income or financial position. Your relative's care needs should be reviewed first and the assessment will look at all aspects of his or her life – including physical and mental health and general wellbeing – to identify their needs. If at least one of these needs meet the eligibility criteria, a care plan is then agreed with your relative on the type of care and support that would best meet those needs.

If your relative is eligible to receive local authority care services either at home or in a care home (but see below if your relative lives in Northern Ireland or Scotland), their financial position will be taken into account; this usually happens before the care plan is drawn up. 

Local authority financial assessments differ depending on whether your relative is remaining at home or moving to a care home. We cover these areas in Financing care at home and Financing a care home.

Outside England

In Northern Ireland, your relative will only undergo a Health and Social Care financial assessment if he or she is moving into a care home.

In Scotland, people aged 65 and over assessed as needing services defined as personal care should not be charged for these services, the same applies for people of any age who are assessed as needing services defined as nursing care. The amount an individual contributes towards the remainder of their care home costs, covering accommodation, utilities and meals, will be determined  following a financial assessment of their income and assets. More information on this is available on the Scottish Government's website.

In Wales, regardless of your relative’s savings they will never have to pay more than £60 per week towards the cost of personal care services they have been assessed as needing.

Downloadable guide

Helping loved ones in later life is an introduction to the different care choices that are available. Perhaps you are looking for ways to help a relative to stay living at home, or it could be that one (or both) of your parents or a partner want to move into somewhere offering sheltered or residential care. We explain the choices and how to find out more.