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2 Arranging a care needs assessment

Local authorities have a legal duty to complete an assessment of needs for anyone living in their area who they think might need community care services, may be disabled, or may be caring for someone else, regardless of their financial situation or the council's own funding situation. 

Where to start with arranging a care needs assessment

'They were all very caring and efficient when they got things in the diary.' Nigel's story

While each local authority in England must assess your relative’s needs according to a national set of eligibility criteria, the way in which the assessment is arranged may vary but should be made publically available. This may be on the local authority website and in written form in places such as GP surgeries, hospitals and libraries.

This information will tell you or your relative where and how to apply for an assessment of needs, and how long you may have to wait.

Needs assessments can be arranged through:

  • your relative’s GP or adult social services. If your relative is not willing or able to do this, they can give a friend or relative permission to do it on their behalf. You may also want to have The carer’s assessment done at the same time.
  • your relative’s local authority website (in Northern Ireland and most areas of Wales, this isn’t possible). To get a link to your relative’s local authority website, enter his or her postcode in our Care services directory and then use the ‘Local authority services’ tab on the resulting page.

If the need for care has been triggered by an accident or illness resulting in a hospital stay, it is common for assessments to be arranged while your relative is still in hospital. 

If you feel your relative would benefit from an assessment in hospital before they return home, but they haven’t had one, you should request this (see The procedure for discharge from hospital for more information).

Who carries out the care needs assessment?

A care needs assessment is usually carried out by a practitioner from the council, such as an occupational therapist, nurse or social worker. Your relative should have only one needs assessment, covering both their health and social care needs, so that they avoid having to repeat the same information to different professionals. However, in practice, this rarely happens because different agencies often have their own assessment processes they stick to. The person carrying out the assessment might need to liaise with others to get information about your relative’s care needs. 

He or she should also try to ensure that if there are needs that others are responsible for meeting, there is a co-ordinated effort: your relative’s GP, other health professionals involved with their care and the council’s housing department, for example.

Don’t be fobbed off if the local authority seems reluctant to carry out an assessment. If you feel that your relative is being unreasonably refused an assessment, you may wish to make a formal complaint.