care in the community

Community care assessments

If the person you’re looking after has difficulty with their personal care, they should consider getting support from social services by having a community care assessment of their needs. This could include information, advice and services provided by the local authority. In some cases they may choose to have a direct payment so that they can purchase the services themselves.

Normally, an assessment is carried out before a service can be provided by the social services department of a local authority. However, if the services are needed urgently, the local authority can provide a service without carrying out the assessment.

The local authority uses the community care assessment to decide whether a person needs a community care service and, if they do, whether it can be provided by the local authority.

The assessment considers what type of services are needed by the person being assessed. A wide range of services could be needed, from aids and adaptations in the person’s own home to care workers or residential care.

Community care assessments can vary depending on the particular needs of the person you are looking after (see How assessments might differ, below). However, the assessment should provide at least certain basic information and a care plan should be drawn up. Where there are disputes about the process of the assessment or the care plan, there are ways in which decisions can be challenged. For more information on challenging decisions see the Community care assessments complaints page in NHS Choices links.

Respite care

Respite care may be beneficial to you and the person you’re looking after.

In some areas respite care is provided by your local authority as a result of you having a carer’s assessment. In other areas access to respite care is provided through a community care assessment for the person you’re looking after. It’s best, therefore, to make sure that both of you are assessed. The local authority will consider what help you need and decide which community care services it will provide to help you.

Local authorities’ duty to carry out a community care assessment

Local authorities have a duty to assess a person who may be in need of community care services. They may need services because of serious illness, physical disability, learning disability, mental health problems or frailty because of old age.

The local authority is obliged to carry out a community care assessment when they become aware that someone may be in need of community care services. This may mean that an assessment is offered even if you or the person you look after have not specifically requested one. Alternatively, you or the person you look after can contact your local social services department and ask them to arrange a community care assessment.

Community care assessments and carers

A community care assessment is different from the assessment you may have as a carer, which is called a carer’s assessment (see the information on carers’ assessments in NHS Choices links, above). However, if you, as a carer, have your own need for community care services because of ill health or disability, you may also be eligible for your own community care assessment.

Community care assessments and the local authority’s resources

Once a local authority has established that there is a need to provide a community care service and the service user meets eligibility criteria, they have a duty to provide that service. This is different from their obligations towards carers. Although they may have a duty to carry out carers’ assessments, whether or not they provide services is their decision. They do not have a duty to do so.

The local authority should not refuse to provide the service on the grounds of cost, although if there is more than one option it is allowed to choose the most cost-effective one.


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