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Paying for social care (older people)

What is a needs assessment?

This page covers:
• What a needs assessment is
• Reasons why people had a needs assessment
• Some of the benefits of a needs assessment

People who pay for their social care are entitled to support and information from their local council adult social care department. This includes a free needs assessment. A needs assessment helps build a picture of the help and care a person needs.

 

Nick is a social worker. He explains what a needs assessment is and how it can be of help.

Nick is a social worker. He explains what a needs assessment is and how it can be of help.

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Hi everyone, my name is Nick and I'm a social worker working in Leeds.

So a needs assessment is where a social worker will have a conversation with you about what your social care needs are.

So the, the formal word to describe an assessment for your social care needs is a Care Act Assessment but in different local authorities, it might go by different names such as in Leeds where I work it's called a Conversation Record and then in other local authorities it’s sometimes called a Needs Assessment. But ultimately all these assessments are the same thing and it's where the social worker is having a conversation with you and potentially your loved one, if they're present, and basically just assessing what your needs are and what support can be put in place to improve your life.

So in a needs assessment, the social worker will be trying to, first of all, look at what support you already have in place. So this might be support from family. It might also be support from other agencies such as home care. And they'll also look at your health conditions, both physical and mental health and explore the ways in which these conditions might impact upon areas such as getting washed and dressed, meal preparation, mobility and accessing the community.

It's worth it just to know what services are available because so many people don't actually know what's out there to actually help them so a lot of the time, you know, people might be struggling so they might be struggling with things like getting washed and dressed or they might feel quite isolated and either they don't feel confident accessing support or they don't even know that the support’s out there. So I suppose it's to kind of, it's on the one hand it is assessing their needs but as well as assessing it's also providing information around what's available. So it's not just really assessing, it's also informing as well.

 

Sharon points out that a needs assessment might show that it is too early to move to a care home.

Sharon points out that a needs assessment might show that it is too early to move to a care home.

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I would always recommend having a needs assessment done, whether you’re in need of council funding or not, so local authority funding. Everybody who has need, everybody is entitled to a needs assessment. So what the needs assessment does it just basically sets out what your specific needs are and particularly if you're going into a care home as a self-funder, you know, it may be too early, so you may not be at that point where you need to have that support.

 

Marie says that it is helpful to get a needs assessment from the local council.

Marie says that it is helpful to get a needs assessment from the local council.

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
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I think it’s quite difficult if you don’t know anything about it. There’s, the DWP Department of Work & Pensions is a really good starting point, you can look on the website and that talks you through all the different benefits that you can get. Even if you are a self-funder your local authority can still give you guidance and you’re still entitled to an assessment of needs. So that’s quite useful for people to know that they’re not on their own and they can get help through Social Services even if they will be self-funding the care package so yeah.

 

Rosemary’s assessments were carried out by a carers charity on behalf of Adult Social Care.

Rosemary’s assessments were carried out by a carers charity on behalf of Adult Social Care.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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Yes, I mean I knew that I was entitled to an assessment at the time it was Carers [County] who were, were providing that via, you know, it had been that was part of their, their sort of commissioned work from, from Social Services; so they used to do that. And I knew myself, from the outset, that we were not going to be entitled to anything by way of, you know, support really so. But yes, we did, both Graham and I had had assessments conducted by them and certainly in the early days I had a couple of non-means tested payments, which were meant to enable me to do something that I wanted to do to support me as a carer; so that was fine.

Some people who expect to pay for their care themselves ask for a financial assessment from adult social care to find out if they will get any help towards funding. A needs assessment will be carried out before a financial assessment.

 

Jacky accompanied her mother at the needs assessment, it took around two hours.

Jacky accompanied her mother at the needs assessment, it took around two hours.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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So we were getting through it, the capital was going down much faster than it had been in [name of North town], but that’s what we’d anticipated. So in July I went online to [name of South county] County Council and filled in the form to request a financial assessment. So first what happens is that you, because we were in a different authority, that before you could have the financial assessment you had to have a Social Services’ assessment to, they had to satisfy themselves that she did need residential care.

So a needs assessment had to be carried out first?

Yes, that had to be carried out first, which that took place; I met the social worker at the care home and that [laughs] well what, what did she, I didn’t warm to the social worker, the particular social worker because how did she put it? She said oh yes, “Because I have to come out and satisfy myself that your mum’s not just a bit lonely and has taken herself into residential care, you see.” And I’m thinking would anybody really want to live in a place [laughs] like this? I certainly hope not to. And so I said, “Well yes, that’s fine,” I said, “but she has been in residential care for a number of years and she has had Alzheimer’s for five years and she’s ninety-one, but yes, by all means I’m quite happy, I realise we have to go through this, come and...” So that was about two hours because you have to go right back to the year dot with all the assessment.

Gary’s wife, Jackie, keeps on top of his changing care needs as he has a condition where his abilities are steadily declining and change from day to day, but she does ask for help from the local council sometimes.

 

Jackie says she has to ask for an updated assessment when Gary’s abilities change significantly.

Jackie says she has to ask for an updated assessment when Gary’s abilities change significantly.

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No, not a need, no, he was assessed for whether he for what level of PIPs he can have, but I suppose any other needs assessment, no. He did have an assessment a few years ago but things have changed; and again I will have to chase that up if I feel that we need it, you know, so if don’t ask don’t get.

When a needs assessment is carried out, a qualified person, such as a social worker, will visit the person needing care to see how they are managing everyday tasks. A family member or friend can be with them during the visit if they wish.

 

Sinclair was caring for his wife when they had a needs assessment at home.

Sinclair was caring for his wife when they had a needs assessment at home.

Age at interview: 92
Sex: Male
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I think we had a needs assessment. A young lady came round and asked us all sorts of questions; that was in the time that was in the period while Audrey was still responding to my own in-house care and I suppose we said that yes we were managing as it was.

 

Peter describes what happened in the needs assessment.

Peter describes what happened in the needs assessment.

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Well it was a tick list really which was you know, what are the effects can she walk, you know, can, can she eat, can she going through that process which they update every year, they’re supposedly to do an update every year. I don’t think I ever got a second update but I got a second telephone call so, you know, they kept involved.

 

Nadra says that the social workers are trained to recognise people’s care needs.

Nadra says that the social workers are trained to recognise people’s care needs.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Female
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Yes, they came, they came and did a needs assessment on him as to what he could and couldn’t do, and he sat there telling them he could everything which was really interesting, because the assessor just looked at him coming across the room and realised he couldn’t do anything [laughs] bless him. And he gets very angry, he gets very, very angry if somebody doubts his word; so she could see that the frustration was there. So, you know, they’re trained to do that, they know if you’re if you’re just, you know trying it on or, you know, what’s for sure; and actually we thought he’d get a lower rate of attendance allowance and she just said, “No, he’s, he needs the higher rate.”

  

Some people we spoke to said the needs assessment helped them understand what care they should to put in place.

 

Marie explains how a fresh pair of eyes can assess needs more clearly.

Marie explains how a fresh pair of eyes can assess needs more clearly.

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
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My first place would be to start with the local authority, even if you do believe that you may be a self-funder, I think someone coming in to give professional advice about assessment of their needs from an outsider’s point of view. my dad always says to me that I notice things a lot more than he does because he’s with my mum every single day and I often come in and say, you know, I’ve already noticed that, you know, mum’s not having a good day today, and he can think that actually she’s been OK and she’s not too bad but that might be because I’ve not seen her for a week and you know, she’s, she’s got a bit worse in certain aspects. So I’d say the local authority to get an assessment of care needs is a really good place to start.

 

If the needs assessment shows that the person assessed would benefit from having care, experts from the adult social care department can help them to find and arrange care, even if the person will be paying for that care themselves.

 

Sue describes a young social worker as a Godsend.

Sue describes a young social worker as a Godsend.

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The, prior to her going into hospital and us trying to get her care prior to that the absolute Godsend was the young social worker, he was a young lad and I thought, when I say again books and covers [laughs] I just thought oh my God, you know, she’s just going to run you out of the house, mate, you haven’t got a chance but he absolutely charmed her and was a real dream. He came with the carer as well the first time round, introduced them and he talked to the care providers and said, “You know, for the first couple of weeks don’t do anything, just go in and, you know, chat, have a cup of tea, get her used to that.” And he was, he was really good, he was really good. If it hadn’t been for him I, it would have been a lot harder for her to accept the care, but I was able to say, “Ooh, you know, you, you told, you told,” I can’t even remember his name now and I should do because he was, he was an absolute gem, “you told so-and-so that, that you’d do this didn’t you? Now have I got to ring him and tell him that you’re not going to?” “No.” [Laughter]. So yeah, so that, that’s how that happened.

 

Simon felt the assessment was hurried but he was pleased with the outcome.

Simon felt the assessment was hurried but he was pleased with the outcome.

Age at interview: 60
Sex: Male
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They originally did a meeting, which; I mean I was very, very upset about the meeting; and they did it in the staff room whilst people were still there having coffee; and I said, “Look, this is not acceptable.” Anyway, I mean I’ve been in lots of meetings, case worker meetings and so on where, where people want, I get the idea that people want to get things done, and I just felt that that was the, that was the case. I don’t know, but I was very, very upset at that time so I simply don’t know. But the long and the short of it was that I did manage to get care from a company who were recommended by the local, the district council, and they were fantastic; they were called [name of care provider], they were based down in [Town], which is a long way away; and all of the carers that, that they had were fantastic.

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