What is a carer?
Many people don’t think of themselves as ‘carers’. They see themselves simply as a partner, family member or friend looking after someone they love. But if you provide regular unpaid help and support to a loved one who’s struggling to cope alone, then you’re a carer.
Each carer’s role is unique. If you’re caring for someone that you share a home with, you might provide help and support 24/7. If you live separately, you might spend a few hours a day with them, or just pop in once a week. You might be the sole carer or share responsibilities with several family members who help to look after the same person.
A carer can be any age. You might be a young adult supporting a parent, or you could be retired yourself, providing care for a partner, sibling or friend. There is no set job description and your role will be shaped by the needs of the person you are caring for and your personal circumstances.
A person might need care due to:
- serious illness or injury
- physical or mental disability
- reduced mobility (see our guide to mobility aids)
- mental health issues
What is a carer’s assessment?
Recognising your role as a carer is an important step towards ensuring you get the right help and support.
If you’re 18 years of age or over and you provide care for someone who is also over 18, you can ask your local council to carry out an assessment of your needs to find out if you’re eligible for support.
It doesn’t matter how much care you provide or what your financial situation is. If your life is affected by your caring responsibilities, and you need support, you should be offered an assessment.
If appropriate, you can ask the council to combine your carer’s assessment with a needs assessment for the person you’re looking after, if they haven’t already been assessed. This is optional though – you are also entitled to request a separate assessment.
How do I apply for a carer’s assessment?
If you haven’t already been offered a carer’s assessment, contact the local authority of the person you care for to request an assessment. Alternatively, a GP or someone else could refer you for an assessment.
For more information about how the local authority arranges the carer’s assessment, check out their website or give them a call.
- Use the gov.uk website to find the website for your local council
How do I prepare for the assessment?
Once the assessment has been booked, collect all the relevant information and start to think about your role as a carer and how it impacts your daily life.
It might help to talk things through with family and friends, or keep a diary for a week about the care you’re providing and how it affects you.
You’ll also need:
- your NHS number
- your GP’s name, address and phone number
- contact details of anyone who will be supporting you with your assessment
- the name, address, date of birth and NHS number of the person you care for
- your email address.
Carer’s assessment checklist
Before the assessment, think about the following points. Make notes and bring them to the assessment with you.
- Do you want, or are you able, to carry on caring for your family member or friend?
- If you’re prepared to continue, is there anything that could make your life easier?
- Without support, is there a risk that you might not be able to continue caring for your family member or friend?
- Do you have any physical or mental health problems, including stress or depression, that make your role as a carer more difficult?
- Does being a carer affect your relationships with other people, including the person you’re caring for as well as other family and friends?
- If you have a job, does being a carer cause problems with your work?
- Make a note of any other activities that are impacted by your caring responsibilities – from study or exercise to hobbies or socialising.
- Would you like to do some training, voluntary work or paid work? If so, what would you like to do?
What to expect from the assessment
Who will do it?
The carer’s assessment is organised by social services and is carried out by a trained social worker, another professional (such as an occupational therapist) or a local voluntary organisation. The local authority should explain this to you in advance.
Where will it be carried out?
Most assessments are carried out in a face-to-face meeting. This should be in a private place, either at your home or in the council offices. The meeting should take place at a time and place that’s convenient for you. Some local authorities offer assessments over the phone or online.
Can I take someone with me?
You can include the person you’re caring for at the meeting. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. You can also ask for a family member, friend or a professional advocate to be present. Let the council know in advance about anyone who will be accompanying you.
Think carefully about who you’ll ask to attend with you. If the person you care for is present throughout the assessment, will you feel able to talk freely? If you have doubts about this, ask for a separate assessment.
If you would like support from an independent advocate, you can ask the local authority to recommend a suitable service, or contact an advocacy organisation, such as the the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance or VoiceAbility.
What does the assessment involve?
The assessment is a discussion to look at how caring affects your life, including your physical, mental and emotional needs. The following areas should be covered in the interview:
- your caring role
- your feelings and choices about caring
- your health
- your work
- other family commitments
- what you enjoy doing to relax
- planning for emergencies
- whether you’re willing or able to carry on in your caring role.
If any of the above issues aren’t discussed, make sure you raise them yourself if they are relevant.
What should I tell them?
Be honest about your caring role and how it affects your life. Don’t try to put on a brave face or play down your responsibilities. It’s best to be realistic about the situation, including the limits of the care you’re willing and able to provide. If you aren’t honest about the impact on your life, you could miss out on valuable help and support.
It may not be realistic for you to provide all the support that your loved one needs, so don’t feel guilty if you can’t do it all.
What happens afterwards?
When the assessment is complete, the local authority will decide whether your needs are ‘eligible’ for support. If you don’t have eligible needs, then you should be given a written decision explaining this.
If you do have eligible needs, the local authority should offer support to meet these needs. Details of your eligible needs and how these will be met should be written up in a support plan. Check that you’re happy with the support plan and that it identifies your needs correctly.
The local authority might offer practical or financial support directly to you to reduce any negative impacts of your caring role. Or they might provide support for the person you’re caring for, so that you can take a break.
Examples of practical support that you could be offered as a carer
- Training in caring skills, such as lifting and handling techniques.
- Courses to help you change job or get back into work.
- Gym membership or leisure classes to help relieve stress.
- Help with travel expenses.
- Help with domestic routines, such as gardening and housework.
Support that might be offered to the person you’re looking after
- A sitting service, where someone can sit with the person you’re looking after to supervise them for a while.
- Meals on wheels delivered to their home.
- Respite care for the person you’re looking after, such as visits to a day care centre or a short period in a care home, so that you can take breaks or have a holiday.
Even though alternative care is provided to benefit you as a carer, it’s technically a service for the person you’re caring for. This means that the person you’re looking after will be financially assessed (if they haven’t already been as part of a needs assessment) to see whether they need to contribute towards the cost of the alternative care.
Services can be provided by the local council itself or through a third party, or alternatively you can request direct payments, which allow you to buy the services.
Will I have to pay for council support?
If you are assessed as having eligible needs, your local authority has a legal duty to meet those needs. Some local authorities offer support to carers free of charge following a carer’s assessment, but some will carry out a financial assessment to see whether you’ll need to pay anything towards any help that is offered to you.
If a financial assessment is carried out, it will be similar to the type of means test used by the council to work out if someone is eligible for care funding – see our information about the financial assessment for home care for guidance.
State benefits for carers
You do not need to have a carer’s assessment to apply for these benefits. But you may be given useful information about available benefits following an assessment.
How to challenge a local authority’s decision
If you’re unhappy with the outcome of an assessment or you feel the process was inaccurate or unfair, you can make a formal complaint. Your local authority should give you a copy of the relevant complaints procedure if you ask for it.
For more information, see our guidance on challenging a local authority decision.
The carer’s assessment elsewhere in the UK
The carer’s assessment differs slightly across the UK. If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, find out more by downloading the relevant Carers UK factsheet.
- Northern Ireland carer’s assessment factsheet
- Scotland carer’s assessment factsheet
- Wales carer’s assessment factsheet