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Most of us want to live independently in our own homes for as long as possible, but as we get older we may need some support and assistance.

You may need help with personal care, such as getting in and out of bed, washing and bathing, preparing meals, shopping or cleaning.

On this page you’ll find out the following:

What kind of support is available?

There’s a wide range of help available and you may be legally entitled to services to meet your needs, although many of these are means-tested. You may also be eligible for home carers or a personal assistant to help you. The kinds of services available to help you stay in your own home include:

  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Bathing and washing
  • Preparing meals
  • Cleaning
  • Fitting equipment and adaptations to your home, such as stairlifts and bath seats
  • Going to a day centre

How do I get support?

Contact your local council’s adult social services department. Explain you need some help and ask for a care assessment to assess your needs. There’s no charge for this and you’re entitled to one regardless of your income and savings.

Your local authority's social services department will carry out a free assessment of your care needs

What happens at a care assessment?

A care assessment will usually take place in your home and may include people such as an occupational therapist, social worker and nurse.

The person assessing you should take into account the emotional and social side of your life as well as any physical difficulties you may experience.

The assessment should reflect your needs and wishes. If you already have someone caring for you, their needs and wishes should also be taken into account. Following the assessment, a care plan will be agreed and written out.

Contact your local Age UK to speak to one of our trained advisors

Will I have to pay for care services?

Most local councils charge for the services at home they provide. Some place an upper weekly limit on the amount you have to pay.

Before charging you for services, your local council must work out how much you can afford to pay and this amount should leave you with a reasonable level of income.

Check your local council’s website for their charging information.

If I get financial help from the council, can I arrange my own care?

If you’re assessed as needing community care services you may be able to choose something called direct payments.

These are regular payments paid by the council directly to you or a person you trust and allow you to buy and arrange your own care.

Alongside direct payments, the Government has introduced personal budgets which aim to give people more choice and control over how they arrange and pay for their social care services.

Find out more about how personal budget and direct payments have changed how social care works.

I only need a little help with housework and gardening. Is there any help available?

Most local councils don’t provide support if you just need a helping hand with your housework, gardening or shopping.

Contact a local voluntary organisation such as your local Age UK or the Royal Voluntary Service to see whether they may be able to provide services for you.

It may still be a good idea to get an assessment by your local council to discuss your options, even if they are not able to help with these tasks.

Find out what home help support your local Age UK offers

I want to arrange and pay for my own care services. Where should I look for help?

You can get help with things such as cleaning, shopping and personal care through private agencies. These agencies must be registered with the Care Quality Commission.

  • The UK Home Care Association can give you details of home care providers that follow its code of practice.
  • Your local adult social services department should be able to provide you with details of approved private agencies.
  • Ask friends or relatives for recommendations.

If you want to employ a care worker directly, you must draw up a contract of employment so that you are both clear on what is expected. Be aware of financial considerations such as National Insurance contributions. Find out more about directly employing a carer from the HMRC.

New pension rules mean that those who employ their own carers using either their own money or money from their Direct Payment may now be legally obliged to contribute towards a pension for them.

You may need to take this into account if you decide to hire a carer or carers directly and you pay them more than £768, every four weeks (£10,000 per year). If you use a payroll service they may help you with these new duties.

To work out what you need to do and when you need to do it, take a look at The Pensions Regulator’s Duties checker.

For more information about your responsibilities as an employer towards your carer, contact The Pensions Regulator on 0345 600 1011.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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