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 is at hand

You’re entitled to a range of support services, many of which are provided free through social services.

  • Time out. Short breaks from your caring role, including respite care, 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, which 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 in the form of professional counselling or just someone to talk to on a regular basis.
  • Support to improve your well-being. 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.

What is a carer’s assessment?

Did you know?

You can speak to a Carers Direct helpline adviser on 0808 802 0202 if you would like help with finding local support.

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

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 unique situation and see whether 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 authority area where they live. You can attend 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 well-being equally when they decide if you’re eligible for support. The assessment must take into account what you want to achieve in your day-to-day life and make sure your caring responsibilities aren’t creating a situation that could get worse for you or the person you care for.

It’s a good idea to consider the impact caring has on your life before the meeting, 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 impacts on 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?
  • Health. If you’re keeping well and how caring affects this.
  • Work, training and education. Whether caring is having an impact on your job or access to training or learning and if you’re concerned about this.
  • Social life and personal time. If 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?

What happens after you’ve been assessed?

Your needs will be compared against a nationally agreed set of criteria to see if they are substantial enough to qualify for help. If you are eligible to receive help, social services will create a support plan for you. It might also include additional care for the person you’re caring for, if required.

The local authority can charge you for some of the services you receive but they can’t charge you for any services that the person you care for gets. You may need to have a separate financial assessment to assess what you can afford to pay.

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

If you’re eligible for financial support

If you’re eligible for financial support you will be given a personal budget. You can then choose to:

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

You must ensure 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’re not eligible for financial support

If you have to pay for carers’ services yourself, you will still be given an independent personal budget. The council will use this to keep track of the care you are giving to the person you look after.

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.

Direct payments

If you opt to receive direct payments from the council, you’ll need to purchase the care services outlined in your care plan yourself. This gives you the flexibility to choose your own providers, and more choice in how your needs are met.

However, with these benefits come additional responsibilities.

  • Records. You must keep accurate and detailed information (including receipts or invoices) of how the money is spent, 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 will 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.

Council services

If you opt for the council to deliver and pay for support services on your behalf, you’ll avoid the administrative responsibilities of managing direct payments. However, you will be limited to the services and suppliers the council already has contracts with.

Case study

“I’ve spent the last three years looking after Mum. I didn’t ever think people would be interested in helping me. But the people at the council were fantastic, and arranged for me to get a break.” – Diane

Other support options available for carers

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

Other information resources

Refer to the Carers Trust website.
Find out more about mental health issues on the Mind website.