Understanding Care Needs Assessments

What is a Care Needs Assessment?

If you’re finding it hard to manage, a care needs assessment is the first step. The assessment determines the kind of social care that would meet your care needs, whether this means adapting your home or moving into a care home. It involves a range of questions online, telephone or face-to-face that cover an individual’s health, practical difficulties in everyday life and the type of care and support they may require. A care needs assessment is the first step to understanding the level of care required to support each person.

The purpose of Care Needs Assessments

The purpose of a Care Needs Assessment is to gain a deeper understanding of the care requirements and preferences of an individual prior to starting their care journey. By getting this information, those completing the care needs assessment will gain information on what you can and can’t do and how you would like to be supported. The assessor will also talk to other health professionals who care for you like your GP or nurse. This is to ensure everyone is on the same page with the care and support you need.

How to arrange a Care Needs Assessment

You can arrange a care needs assessment by getting in contact with your local council’s adult services department or health and social care trust if you live in Northern Ireland. You can book a care needs assessment on behalf of a loved one, however they must be willing to and agree to the assessment – unless they don’t have the capacity to make or communicate that decision themselves. There is no charge for a care needs assessment and you’re entitled to one regardless of your income, savings or level of need.

Steps to book your Assessment

The local authority will assess you if you are seen to have a need for care and support. This referral can come from the person requiring care or someone else who believes you need care and support, from a referral from social services, from a hospital or following a safeguarding inquiry. The best way to book a care needs assessment is to get in contact with your local council. You can do this by calling them or applying online.

Preparing for the Assessment

It is important to be as truthful and open as possible when discussing how you feel, any issues or problems you may have and any queries and worries you have when discussing care. Be specific, for example, ‘I need someone to help me get up and dressed in the mornings’ and ‘I need to be reminded to take my mediction.’

You also need to think about personal preferences you or a loved one may have regarding care. This can include any social, cultural, or religious requirements.

If you want to talk things over and find out more about care needs assessments, you can call helplines such as Age UK, Independent Age and The Family Rights Group.

It can also be helpful to have someone with you when you have your care needs assessment. A family member or friend can provide vital support to you or a loved one during their assessment. This person can also act as an advocate, who can speak on your behalf, help fill in forms, join you in meetings and assessments, and assist you along your care process.

What to expect during the assessment

A care needs assessment can be undertaken in a variety of ways. It will most likely be carried out as a face-to-face assessment but also be over the phone. There is no need to feel pressure or stressed before or during the care needs assessment. The social workers are here to help you and discuss your care needs. It could  involve an evaluation of the individuals physical, mental, social, and emotional needs. It will involve discussing daily routines, current support, and any queries/issues you have.

Who conducts the assessment?

A care needs assessment is carried out by a member of your local council’s social services department, usually a social worker or occupational therapist.

Post-assessment process

Once a care needs assessment is complete, both the council and family members can start assessing needs and planning care. If the council decides that an individual needs care, they will give you a copy of your care needs assessment and explain what your care needs are.

They will then collaborate with you to create and develop a written care and support plan. You will then have a financial assessment which will determine whether you qualify for financial support from the council and how much you qualify for.

Understanding your assessment results

Once the care needs assessment has taken place, the council can recommend a variety of options. They may suggest that your loved one should move into a residential or nursing home facility; in which case you can begin to make plans to visit care homes.

They can also suggest that an individual may benefit from supportive equipment such as a walking frame, wheelchairs, or hearing aids.

This will help answer any care needs assessment questions you or your loved ones may have.

What if you don’t qualify for care?

Following your care needs assessment, you will either be advised that care will be helpful to you or that you don’t qualify for care and support. If you don’t qualify for care, your council and the social services can still give you advice with your particular situation and suggest where you can get support in your community. You can also ask for a review or make a complaint.

Financial considerations

A financial assessment works out how much an individual will have to pay towards their care, and how much can be provided by councils. Local councils will usually help towards care costs if an individual has savings less than £23,250, however this is due to change in October 2025.

Funding and means testing

When determining financial support from the council, factors such as personal savings, current income and properties owned are also taken into consideration. The financial assessment is free and takes place after the care needs assessment.

How to handle disagreements and appeals

It can be difficult if you believe yourself or a loved one needs care, but it is important to know that there is an appeal process available through your local council if you want to challenge this decision.

Steps to take if you disagree with the assessment

If your local council denies your appeal, you can escalate this to the Local Government ombudsman, who will look into the complaint.