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Methods of assessment

We explain the various methods of carrying out a needs assessment, ranging from a face-to-face, to telephone interviews and an online self-assessment.
3 min read
In this article
Face-to-face interview  Telephone interview Self-assessment of care needs
Who should represent your views during the assessment? Assessments in other parts of the UK

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 home, normally by a member of social services, such as a social worker or a care manager.

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

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 your situation.

If you feel that a telephone interview assessment wasn’t thorough enough and you don’t agree with the evaluation or resulting decisions, you should challenge the assessment. For more information, see challenging a local authority decision.

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

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 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.

Use our directory to find local care homes, home care agencies and carer support services across the UK.

Who should represent your views during the assessment?

The needs assessment is key, so it can help to have someone else familiar with your situation (such as a friend, relative or carer) there to help to communicate your needs and get across all the necessary points.

If you would like an advocate present, it can be worth contacting your local Age UK services. Alternatively, 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.

It’s advisable to have someone else present if possible, particularly if you sometimes have difficulty in expressing yourself or don’t feel confident about explaining your situation. What is said in the needs assessment is vital, as it forms the basis of the care plan that follows.

Other people involved in your care, such as a care worker, community nurse, sheltered housing warden, GP or medical specialist, may also be consulted by the assessor, if you’re happy with this.

Assessments in other parts of the UK

Northern Ireland

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 carer’s assessment in this way. 

Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure individuals have access to independent advocacy services if this would help them to participate fully in the assessment process.

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Further reading

Getting a needs assessment

A needs assessment is key to getting the support you need. You have a right to this assessment and it's free of charge.

Reviewing the needs assessment

It’s likely that your health will fluctuate over time and the care required will change, too. We explain when care ...

Last updated: 20 Nov 2020