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What is Social Care?

'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:

  • No social care is free. The amount you pay depends on the level of need and the amount of assets you have.
  • You should get an assessment of needs from your local health trust 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 health trust to arrange a free care needs assessment
Ccontact 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.

Needs assessment
2. The health trust 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 health trust agrees a care and support plan with you
If you are found to have eligible needs, they 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 Health Trust must still provide you with information and advice on what support may help you.

4. The health trust assesses your finances
Care is not usually free. They 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
5. The health trust produces your personal budget
They 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
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 health trust 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.

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 health trust 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 I’m not eligible for help?

If you’re not eligible for help from the health trust, 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.

Age NI Advice Service

Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.

Call freephone 0808 808 7575
Monday - Friday 9am – 5pm 


Last updated: May 05 2020

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