What are community care services?
Community care is a complex area. If you’re having problems getting community care services, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Community care services are care services that are arranged or provided by the local authority social services department, mainly to adults who have care needs. Community care services include a place in a care home or services to help you carry on living in your home and keep as much independence as possible.
You may need community care services because of your age or because you are disabled or physically or mentally ill.
What services may be available?
There is a wide range of community care services that you may be entitled to. The following list gives only the main examples:
- a place in a care home
- home care services
- home helps
- adaptations to the home
- recreational and occupational activities.
If you need long-term care, and you can’t manage in your own home anymore, one option may be moving into a care home.
All care homes can provide personal care if you need it. This could include help with washing, dressing or going to the toilet. Some care homes can also provide nursing care.
The rules about how charges are made for care homes are different to the rules about charging for other community care services.
For more information about care homes, including how charges are made, see Care homes.
Home care services
Home care services generally mean help with personal tasks, for example, bathing and washing, getting up and going to bed, shopping and managing finances. Providing home care involves someone coming to your home at agreed times. This could be two or three times a day or even 24-hour care where necessary.
Home helps can provide assistance with general domestic tasks including cleaning and cooking and may be particularly important in maintaining hygiene in the home.
Adaptations to the home
Adaptations to the home could be major or minor and can be particularly important in allowing you to remain at home. Major adaptations could include, for example, the installation of a stair lift or downstairs lavatory or the lowering of work tops in the kitchen. Minor adaptations would include, for example, hand rails in the bathroom.
The provision of meals as a community care service could mean a daily delivery of a meal or, in some areas, the delivery of a weekly or monthly supply of frozen food. It could also mean providing meals at a day centre or lunch club.
Recreational and occupational activities
The local authority social services department can provide a range of recreational, occupational, educational and cultural activities, for example, at a day centre. These activities could include lectures, games, outings, and help with living skills and budgeting. The local authority social services department may also provide transport to enable you to make use of the facilities.
The local authority social services department may also be able to provide radio, televisions or visiting library services.
How to get a community care service
Unless you urgently need services, you will have to have your needs assessed by the local authority social services department before they will provide services for you. This is called a community care assessment. The local authority social services department must carry out an assessment for anyone who appears to need a community care service because they are, for example, elderly, disabled or suffering from a physical or mental illness.
If you think that you need community care services, you should contact your local authority social services department and ask for an assessment. A carer, friend or relative can also ask for an assessment on your behalf.
It may be that, after you’ve contacted the local authority social services department, there are problems with an assessment. If so, you may need to contact a specialist adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.
How an assessment is carried out
An assessment is carried out by someone from or acting on behalf of the local authority social services department. More than one person could be involved in carrying out the assessment, including a social worker, a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist. The assessment procedure may involve filling in a form but this will vary from area to area.
The assessment should take into account:
- your wishes as the person being assessed
- whether you have any particular physical difficulties, for example, problems with walking or climbing stairs
- whether you have any particular health or housing needs
- what sources of help you have access to, such as carers, family or nearby friends, and their willingness to continue providing are
- what needs these people who provide care may have.
What happens after an assessment
Once an assessment has been carried out, the local authority social services department has to decide whether you are entitled to services to meet your needs. This is based on your level of need, not on how much money you have. Entitlement to services is a complicated area.
If your local authority social services department says that you aren’t entitled to community care services, you should get advice, for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.
If the local authority social services department is going to provide services, the services must be set out in a care plan. You should be given the care plan in writing if you request it. The care plan will set out:
- the services which are to be provided, by who, when and what will be achieved by providing them
- a contact point to deal with problems about services
- information on how to ask for a review of the services being provided if your circumstances change.
Assessment for a carer
A carer is someone like a relative or friend who takes responsibility for looking after a disabled, ill or elderly person and who does not provide the care as part of a job or as a volunteer with a voluntary organisation. Some carers provide care for a few hours a week, others for 24 hours a day, every day. A carer does not have to be living with the person being cared for.
You are entitled to ask for your needs as a carer to be assessed when an assessment is being carried out for the person you care for. You can ask to be assessed even if the person you care for is entitled to an assessment but does not want one. Some carers of disabled children can also have an assessment. In Scotland, local authority social services departments must consider the views of both the carer and the person cared for when they carry out any assessment.
In England and Wales, local authority social services departments can provide services directly to carers and offer you direct payments for your own needs. However, the results of the carer’s assessment must be taken into account when they decide what community care services the person being cared for will receive.
If, after contacting the local social services department, you have problems with an assessment, it may be necessary to contact a specialist adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.
Paying for community care services
The rules about which community care services must be paid for, and how much can be charged, are complicated. If you want information on this, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.
The local authority social services department can charge for providing some community care services. Some local authorities only charge for some services, for example, meals on wheels or home helps, while others charge for all the services they are allowed to charge for.
If you’re a carer in England and Wales and you get services for your needs, you can be charged for those services.
A local authority social services department must make information about charges generally available. If you are having your community care needs assessed by the local authority social services department (and in England and Wales, if you are having your needs as a carer assessed), you must also be given full information on charges for any services provided.
Some local authority social services departments make a flat rate charge for a service, for example, meals on wheels. Others may want to know how much income and savings you have and then charge according to a sliding scale. In Scotland, local authority social services departments have to treat people claiming benefit ‘sympathetically’ when they are charged for community care services.
In England and Wales, local authority social services departments must follow the following Government guidance when they assess how much you can pay for services:
- they must not charge you if you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit (guarantee credit only) and your overall income is less than a certain amount
- they should not take your or your partner’s earnings into account
- they should only take your savings and capital into account if they are above a set limit. Your home isn’t taken into account when they assess your capital
- in England only, if they take into account any disability-related social security benefit you get, for example, Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance, they must assess any extra expenses you have as a result of your disability, for example, extra heating or laundry costs
- in Wales, allowances must be made for any disability-related expenses you may have
- they should offer you advice on social security benefits.
If you have been asked to pay for services and you think the charges are unreasonable or you can’t afford to pay them, you can ask for the charges to be reviewed.
If you want to challenge charges, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.