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Getting help at home from your local authority

Many older people are eligible for help with their care needs from their local authority. Find out about the needs assessment and professional support.
5 min read
In this article
Will my local council help with care at home? What will happen at the needs assessment? What happens after the assessment?
Help with home care Help with home adaptations Mobility aids and other equipment

Will my local council help with care at home?

If you need extra support to stay safe and independent at home, there are a number of ways your local council may be able to help.

Local social services and healthcare services have a duty to provide support and assistance to people who have eligible needs. This can include domiciliary care, adaptations to your home, equipment such as mobility aids or assistive technology, or help to pay for a care home.

The first step is to get a free needs assessment from your local authority. This will look at various aspects of your life – including physical and mental health and general wellbeing – to identify your needs. You are entitled to this assessment, regardless of your income or financial position. However, the council will look at your financial situation to determine how much state support you are eligible to receive.

If you have an informal carer (maybe a family member or friend), they can also request a carer’s assessment of their needs to see if they’re entitled to help and support.

If you’re in hospital

If your key worker or liaison nurse feels that you would benefit from home adaptations or equipment or more formal domiciliary care as a part of your ongoing care and support, they will arrange for an occupational therapist (OT) to visit you before you leave hospital.

The OT may also need to visit your home to get an idea of the difficulties you might face. You, or a family member, can request to be present at the visit.

After a short stay in hospital, you may be eligible for six weeks of free support called NHS Intermediate Care.

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What will happen at the needs assessment?

A care specialist, such as an occupational therapist or a social worker, will speak with you and look around your home to identify what difficulties you face. It can be helpful for a friend or family member to be present during this assessment to support you and make sure that all the important issues are discussed.

We explain this process in greater detail in getting a needs assessment.

What happens after the assessment?

If you’re assessed as having eligible needs, the local authority will then carry out a financial assessment (sometimes called a ‘means test’). This looks at your savings, assets and income to determine whether you qualify for council support, and how much you should pay towards the cost of your own care.

If you’re eligible for council social care, a care plan will be agreed with you setting out what kind of support would best meet your needs.  

Some types of support such as essential health and social care equipment or minor home adaptations may be provided regardless of your financial situation. But local authorities will only fund care, equipment or alterations they have assessed as being necessary.

Even if you don’t qualify for social care funding, the council still has a duty to provide advice and information about what support is available and how to access it.

For more information about how local councils work out who is eligible for support, including the different approaches in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, see our guide on local authority home care funding:

Help with home care

Following your assessment, the council may recommend that you need support at home from a professional carer.

They may offer to arrange the home care service for you – either through their own in-house home care service or, more commonly, through a commercial domiciliary care agency. Alternatively, the council may allocate you a personal budget with direct payments, which you can use to arrange the support you need independently.

If you don’t qualify for council support, you will be responsible for organising your own domiciliary care. Read more about your options in our guide to organising home care.

Even if you expect to be self-funding or making your own arrangements with an agency or private carer, it’s still beneficial to get a care needs assessment done as this will provide a recognised, professional description of your needs and appropriate support options.

Use our directory to find local home care agencies anywhere across the UK.

Help with home adaptations

If your care plan recommends minor adaptations to your home (costing less than £1,000), the council will often pay for these.

If major adaptations (costing more than £1,000) are suggested, you can apply for a means-tested grant to help with costs – called a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

If your home isn’t suitable for conversion, you may need to consider a move to somewhere that has already been adapted, or would be easier to adapt.

You might also want to consider sheltered housing. These properties have been created with older people in mind and are usually compact and easy to get around. Most have been built (or adapted) to suit people with reduced mobility or disabilities.

Find out more about how to get support for home adaptations:

Mobility aids and other equipment

Following a needs assessment, the local authority might recommend equipment to help you live with greater independence, such as mobility aids, a personal alarm or telecare.

Generally, any equipment that’s provided by the council is considered to be on long-term loan. So once it’s finished with, it will have to be returned to the service. This also means the provider is responsible for the maintenance and servicing of the equipment. This may be an advantage if high-cost equipment is required.

Note, however, that local authorities normally don’t provide funding for mobility scooters or wheelchairs.

If you’re not eligible for council support, you can still get hold of certain pieces of equipment from the NHS wheelchair service or a charity if you have a permanent disability. For this support, you will usually need to have a GP referral.

In other circumstances, you will need to do your own research – our article on finding out what home care products are available is a good place to start.

If you’re registered disabled or have a chronic health condition, you can claim VAT exemption on certain products and mobility aids.

Further reading

Home care services

If you’re finding it difficult to manage, home care can provide the support you need to stay independent at home.

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.

Occupational therapy

If you have had an accident or illness, an occupational therapist can help you to regain your confidence.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2020