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 which are provided free through social services.

  • Time out - short breaks from your caring role, including respite care for the person you’re caring for, 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 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?

If you need help finding local support, call a Carers Direct helpline adviser on 0808 802 0202. Carers Direct is a national information, advice and support service for carers in England.

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 authority.

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 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?
  • Your home - Do you and the person you’re caring for live together or separately and 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 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?
  • Dealing with emergencies - What would happen if you were to become ill or have to go away?

What happens after you’ve been assessed?

Your needs will be compared against a nationally agreed set of criteria to see if they are 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 extra care for the person you’re caring for, if needed.

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

If the local authority thinks that your caring needs aren’t 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 can 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 local authority 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 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’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 local authority will use this to keep track of the care you’re 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 authority 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.

Direct payments

If you choose to receive direct payments from the local authority, 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 invoices) 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 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.

Find out more in our Direct payments – arranging and paying for care guide.

Local authority services

If you choose for the local authority to provide 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 they already have 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

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

Find out which Benefits and tax credits you can claim as a carer {:target=”_blank”}in our guide.

More information

Did you find this guide helpful?