4 Methods of assessment

There are various methods of assessment, ranging from a face-to-face interview or telephone interview to an online self-assessment.

Face-to-face interview 

In most cases, a full needs assessment will be carried out by a face-to-face interview. Most are carried out in your relative’s home, normally by a member of social services, such as a social worker or a care manager.

In some cases, though, your relative’s assessment may be carried out in hospital, in a GP’s surgery or in your local social services' head office.

It is a good idea for someone (a close friend or family member) to accompany your relative to the needs assessment so they can help them to communicate their needs and get across all the points they want to. What is said in the needs assessment is vital, as it forms the basis of the care plan that follows

Telephone interview

An increasing number of simple needs assessments are carried out by telephone, although government guidance (except in Wales) instructs local authorities to avoid screening out people by this method.

A telephone interview isn’t ideal, because it can be difficult for the assessor to get a full picture of the situation.

If your relative feels that a telephone interview assessment was not thorough enough and they don't agree with the evaluation or resulting decisions, they should challenge the assessment. For more information, see Challenging a needs assessment.

Self-assessment of care needs

Many councils have introduced the option of ‘self-assessment’ to allow people to assess their own care needs. A self-assessment may be available as a paper questionnaire or as an online form on the council’s website.

If you or your relative complete the assessment online, you should receive an instant reply saying whether you may be able to receive support from social services.

However, if more details are needed, self-assessment may be followed by a face-to-face interview with a social worker.

If you aren't able to complete a self-assessment or you simply prefer not to, you should still be able to ask for a face-to-face assessment with a social worker.

Who should represent your relative's views during the assessment?

The care needs assessment is key, so it can help your relative to have someone there to prompt them and make sure that all the issues you have previously discussed are mentioned.

  • They might want the support of a family member, friend, carer or an independent advocate. Local areas have advocacy services that might also help. 
  • If you think your relative would like an advocate present, it can be worth contacting their local Age UK services. The local authority has a duty, under the Care Act, to provide an advocate for those who have substantial difficulty in understanding and retaining information which they must then use to make and communicate a decision.
  • Other people involved in your relative’s care, such as a care worker, community nurse, sheltered housing warden, GP or medical specialist may also be consulted by the assessor, if your relative is happy with this.

It is advisable to have someone else present if possible, particularly if your relative has difficulty in expressing themselves or doesn’t feel confident about explaining their situation.

Outside England

In Northern Ireland, interviews are always face to face.

In Wales, self-assessments are not currently used, except by a few councils who may carry out a The carer's assessment in this way.