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How to arrange care

Do you or someone you know need a bit of help as they get older? Perhaps you could use some help at home, need some adaptations, or want to look into your options about where you’re going to live in the future. 

What is social care and how could it help me?

'Social care' is the general term used to refer to the extra support or care needed to carry out daily tasks at home to keep you living independently.

This extra help and support includes:

  • help at home with simple tasks like shopping, laundry and cleaning
  • personal care such as washing, dressing and preparing a meal
  • 24-hour care in a care home or a housing with care scheme (also known as sheltered accommodation)
  • home adaptations and equipment to make life easier and help you live independently at home.

The two most important things to be aware of

  1. No social care is free. The amount you pay depends on the level of need and the amount of assets you have.
  2. You should get an assessment of needs from your local council immediately. This helps to mark the level of your need and can be reassessed again at a later date.

How do I arrange and pay for social care?

If you think that you - or an older friend of relative - could benefit from some help from social care, then this is the process that you’ll go through.

There may be slight differences in what you experience depending on what help you need, where you live, and what circumstances you are in, but we’ll explain the overall process and then where you can go for more information on specific topics if you need it.

1. Contact your local authority to arrange a free care needs assessment

Your first port of call should be your Local Authority (via Gov UK) - contact its social services department or contact centre to arrange an assessment of your needs. A care needs assessment is free and you have the right to request one regardless of your financial situation.

Care needs assessment

Find out more about the care needs assessment and what needs are eligible for help

2. The local authority assesses your needs

A social worker (or sometimes an occupational therapist or nurse) will ask you questions about what you find difficult on a daily basis. Each local authority will have its own assessment procedure and information about this should be available on their website.

3. The local authority agrees a care and support plan with you

If you are found to have eligible needs, the local authority will write a care and support plan in agreement with you. You should get a copy of this plan. The plan could include recommendations for home care, some home adaptations or equipment, or a recommendation that you need a care home.

If you don’t have eligible needs, the local council must still provide you with information and advice on what support may help you.

4. The local authority assesses your finances

Care arranged by a local authority is not usually free. Your local authority will ask about your finances and income. They will do a means test – a financial assessment – to see how much you may have to contribute.

Means test explained

Find out more about the means test and how the council will assess your finances.

5. The local authority produces your personal budget

The council will come up with a budget that must cover the cost of meeting your eligible needs. For example, your personal budget might detail how much home care will cost, or how much local care home fees are, depending on what you need.

The personal budget will also include how much you need to contribute and how much the local authority will pay towards the costs.

Your personal budget can be altered if your needs change. 

Personal budgets and direct payments

Get more details on what a personal budget and is how you can spend it.

6. You get to choose what you do with your personal budget

You get a number of options of what you can do with your personal budget. You can receive that money as a direct payment to you, so you can arrange your own care. Or the council can arrange care for you. If you need a care home place, you should get some choice as to where you’ll live. If you need home adaptations or equipment, these may be provided for free.

Personal budgets and direct payments

Get more details on what a personal budget and is how you can spend it.

How long does it take to arrange care?

Situations can change in a matter of hours, in which case you can usually get emergency help very quickly. 

Your local authority can - in some cases - start providing services before a care-needs assessment has been carried out, if it believes support is needed urgently.

A full assessment will then take place as soon as possible to make sure the right support is in place.


What if the local council says I’m not eligible for help?

If you’re not eligible for help from the local authority, that's not the end of their help.

They should still give you free information and advice about how to stop your needs increasing.

Don't assume they'll give it to you automatically - you may have to ask for it yourself.


What shall I do next?

Claim what you're owed

Your local council will take any benefits you are entitled to when doing a means test, even if you don't actually claim them.

As the system differs slightly from council to council, why not get in touch with your local Age UK to get their advice.

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For more information call Age UK on 0800 055 6112

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