If you look after a partner, friend or relative who can't manage without your help, you are entitled to a carer's assessment from the social work department. This will look at your needs and see if anything can be done to make life easier for you in your caring role.
What is a carer's assessment?
A carer's assessment is your chance to talk to the social work department about your situation as a carer. Social work will then assess your situation and see if anything can be done to make life easier for you in your role as a carer.
A carer's assessment is all about your needs. The social work department should look at the needs of the person you care for separately, in a community care assessment. These two assessments may be carried out at the same time, but don't have to be. You can have a carer's assessment even if the person you're caring for refuses to have a community care assessment.
Who can get a carer's assessment?
You should be entitled to a carer's assessment if:
- you care for a partner, friend or relative aged 18 or over, or
- you look after a disabled child - you don't have to be the child's parent, you could be a stepparent, grandparent, guardian, or anyone else with parental responsibility for the child.
If there is more than one carer in your household (for example, if you and your partner both look after a disabled child) you are both entitled to an assessment. You are also entitled to an assessment if you are a young carer under the age of 16.
If you are intending to look after someone in the near future (for example, when they come out of hospital) you can get an assessment in advance.
How do I get a carer's assessment?
To get an assessment, you need to contact your local social work department - you can find the number in the phone book or on your council's website. You can also ask your GP, health visitor or district nurse to contact social work for you.
If social work refuses to give you an assessment, you should ask for their reasons in writing. Show the letter to an adviser at Citizens Advice or carers' centre - they should be able to help you challenge the council.
How do I prepare for the assessment?
A carer's assessment gives you the chance to talk about how caring affects your life. Before the assessment, make a list of all the things you do to care for the person and how much time this takes up. Include things like:
- personal care, such as getting the person up, washed and dressed and putting them to bed
- medical care, such as injections
- household tasks you do for them, such as cleaning, cooking, washing and shopping
- keeping them company
- helping them get around, for example pushing their wheelchair or driving them
- other tasks, such as helping them deal with their finances.
Think about the things that you find hardest and you would most like to get help with.
You could also think about:
- whether your health is affected by caring, for example, is it making you stressed or depressed? Do you get enough sleep? Is lifting the person hurting your back?
- how much time you spend with your family, and whether your caring responsibilities are affecting your relationship with your partner, children or other family members
- how much the person you look after can do without your help
- whether you have any time to yourself to do things you enjoy, such as seeing friends, exercising or going to the cinema
- how well you're able to balance working and caring, for example, have you had to reduce your hours at work? Have you had to give up work completely? Would you like to go back?
- how caring is affecting your future prospects, for example, would you like to further your education or get some training or go for promotion in your job?
- whether caring is adversely affecting your financial situation
- how you would cope in an emergency, for example, do you have a back up plan if you fall ill?
- whether you are able to continue caring for the person to the extent you do at the moment
- how long you plan to care for the person.
What happens during the assessment?
The assessment can be carried out at your home or at the home of the person you care for. The social worker or therapist carrying out the assessment will talk to both of you, although you can ask to talk to them in private if you prefer.
Remember, this assessment is about your needs as a carer. The social worker is not there to judge you, so don't feel you have to make yourself look good. This is your opportunity to get some help, so be as honest as possible about how you're coping and how much you can realistically do.
How does social work decide what services I need?
When deciding what services you need, social work must take into account:
- whether you want to, or are able to, carry on caring for the person - they mustn't assume that you're prepared to carry on being a carer, or try to pressure you into taking on more than you can manage
- whether you want to stay at work or return to work
- whether you want to carry on with your education or training
- your right to have a life of your own and to spend time with your family.
What kind of services could I get?
The assessment will look at services for the person you care for that will support you in your caring role. There are various different services you may be recommended, depending on your situation. For example:
- help with household tasks, such as cleaning, washing and shopping
- help providing personal care
- help providing medical care
- equipment for the person you care for, so they can do more things without your help - this could include a hoist for getting in and out of bed, or a stairlift
- adaptations to be carried out to the person's home so they can do more, for example putting in an accessible bathroom or lowering the worktops in the kitchen
- respite care - this could involve finding a place for the person at a day centre, arranging for them to stay in a care home for a while, or organising someone else to look after them in the home
- emotional support - for example, social work may put you in touch with your local carers' centre or support group.
Social work should then draw up a care plan, showing how these needs will be met. The services may be provided by the council, the NHS or by local voluntary agencies.
Will I have to pay for these services?
Care assessments are carried out free of charge. However, depending on your financial circumstances, you may need to pay for or make a contribution towards the services recommended in your care plan. After carrying out the care assessment, the social work department will carry out a financial assessment to see what you can afford, taking into account your salary or wages, benefits, savings, pension, etc. If the person you care for is 65 or over, they cannot be charged for any personal care services provided at home.
You can find out more about paying for care services.
What if the person I care for refuses the services?
The person you care for may refuse to receive services from external agencies. For example, they may not want a care worker to wash and dress them. In this case, you can't force them. Instead, talk to social work about other ways they can support you. For example, you may be able to get help with household tasks, to free up some of your time, or get some special equipment so the person can do more without your help.
What if I'm unhappy with the assessment?
If you're not happy with the way the assessment has been carried out or with the services that have (or haven't) been provided, you should first make a complaint to the social work department - they should have a complaints process in place. An adviser at Citizens Advice or carers' centre will be able to help you with this. If this is not satisfactory, you can make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
What if my situation changes?
If your situation, or that of the person you care for, changes (for example, if you need to return to work or the health of the person you care for deteriorates) you can ask for a new assessment. Otherwise your situation should be reassessed regularly, usually once a year.
Where can I find out more?
The Carers Scotland website has lots of useful information on preparing for your carer's assessment and what you can do if you're unhappy with the way it turns out.