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Support services available to carers

Caring for someone can take its toll on your physical and mental health, social life, career and relationships. Taking time out to look after yourself is important if you’re to continue supporting yourself and the person you’re caring for. Here are some of the different types of support available.

Help that’s available

You’re entitled to a range of support services, many of them provided free through social services:

  • Time out – short breaks from your caring role. This includes respite care for the person you’re caring for, and can give you a chance to recharge your batteries.
  • Practical help – things that perhaps used to be simple, such as housework, laundry, grocery shopping or gardening, can become a strain when you’re caring for someone.
  • Modifications – equipment or alterations to the home that can make life easier.
  • Emotional support – whether it’s professional counselling or just someone to talk to regularly.
  • Support to improve your wellbeing – access to exercise, learning opportunities or social activities.
  • Advocacy – having someone to speak on your behalf.

To access many of these services, you’ll first need to complete a carer’s assessment.

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What is a carer’s assessment?

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Whether you care for someone full-time or just a few hours a week, share your caring role with others or do it alone – you’re entitled to a carer’s assessment from your local council.

It’s your chance to discuss with a social worker what help you might need with caring for a friend or relative.

It lets the social worker assess your situation and see if you’re entitled to any services that would make caring easier for you.

The carer’s assessment can be carried out face-to-face, online or over the phone.

If the person you care for lives in another area, it usually takes place in the local council area where they live.

You can go to the meeting alone or with a friend or member of your family. The person you care for doesn’t need to be there.

The care specialist must look at both your emotional and physical wellbeing equally when they decide if you qualify for support.

The assessment must take into account what you want to achieve in your day-to-day life. It aims to make sure your caring responsibilities don’t create a situation that could get worse for you or the person you care for.

Before the meeting, it’s a good idea to consider the impact caring has on your life. This is so you can tell the care specialist everything they need to know.

You could try keeping a note in your diary of things like:

  • Sleep – whether you get enough and if your caring role affects this.
  • Your other caring needs – do you have enough time to care for children or other adults who depend on you?
  • Keeping up with household chores – can you manage to fit these in with your caring responsibilities?
  • Your home – do you and the person you’re caring for live together or separately? Are there any changes that could be made to make coping easier?
  • Health – if you’re keeping well and how caring affects this.
  • Work, training and education – whether caring is affecting your job or access to training or learning, and whether you’re concerned about this.
  • Social life and personal time – do you get enough time to spend with your family, friends, social activities and to look after yourself?
  • How you are coping – are you able and willing to carry on your caring role?
  • Dealing with emergencies – what would happen if you were to become ill or have to go away?

How to apply for a carer’s assessment

If you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, you’ll need to speak to the social services department of the local council responsible for the person you’re caring for.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to speak to the Health and Social Care Trust of the person you’re caring for.

For more information for carers living in either England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, see the Carers UK website

What happens after you’ve been assessed?

Your needs will be compared against a nationally agreed set of criteria to see if you qualify for help.

If you qualify for help, social services will create a support plan for you.

It might also include extra care for the person you’re caring for, if needed.

The local council can charge you for some of the services you get. But they can’t charge you for any services that the person you care for gets.

You might need to have a separate financial assessment to assess what you can afford to pay.

If the local council thinks your needs aren’t enough to qualify for help, they must still give you advice and information on where you can go to get help from charities or other local organisations.

If you qualify for financial support

If you qualify for financial support, you can be given a ‘personal budget’.

A personal budget is the amount of money your local council will pay towards the care and support you need.

There are two ways you can be paid this personal budget. You can then choose to:

  • receive direct payments and decide for yourself which providers to use for the services you want, or
  • let the local council arrange the services for you – so you won’t have to deal with the paperwork, but you will be limited to the services the council provides.

You must make sure that the funding is used to meet your own needs.

You can’t use it to buy services for the person you’re caring for.

If you don’t qualify for financial support

If you have to pay for carer’s services yourself, you’ll still be given a personal budget.

The local council will use this to keep track of the care you’re giving to the person you look after.

Direct payments

If you choose to receive direct payments from the local council, you’ll need to buy the care services outlined in your care plan yourself.

This gives you the flexibility to choose your own providers, and more choice in how to meet your needs.

However, with these benefits come extra responsibilities:

  • Records. You need to keep accurate and detailed information, including receipts or bills, of how you spent the money – and provide these to social services.
  • Costs. If you don’t keep accurate records or buy services that aren’t covered by your care plan, you’ll have to pay for the care yourself.
  • Employment responsibilities. If you employ someone directly, you’ll need to take on the legal responsibilities of contracts, as well as deducting tax and National Insurance contributions from their pay.

Local council services

If you choose for the local council to provide and pay for support services on your behalf, you’ll avoid all the admin of managing direct payments.

However, you will be limited to the services and suppliers they already have contracts with.

Other support options available for carers

As well as carer’s assessments, there are several other benefits and financial support you might be entitled to as a carer.

For example, you might be eligible for Carer’s Allowance (and Carer’s Allowance Supplement in Scotland) if you, the person you care for and the type of care you provide meets certain criteria.

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