Having their own assessment allows the carer to meet with a social worker or health worker to:
- look at what help they need to support them as a carer
- find out what help and support may be available
- make a decision about the future.
To be eligible for a carer's assessment under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 they must:
- be looking after, or intending to look after, someone who may have community care needs (even if that person has not had a community care assessment or isn’t receiving any services) and
- be providing, or intending to provide, a substantial amount of care on a regular basis.
Note that “regular” could mean once a day or once a month. “Substantial” does not have a definition in the law, this is deliberate, because how substantial a caring role is felt to be depends on the carer’s personal circumstances, such as whether or not they are working and how physically able they are.
It is important to remember that the carer’s needs may not match those of the person they care for; for example, someone using community care services who has moderate needs may have a carer who is experiencing critical need.
What’s important to carers?
Carers Trust worked with Skills for Care to find out what matters to carers in carers assessments. Read the report - Carers assessments: Workforce development opportunities based on carers experiences.
Key things that matter to carers include:
- Understanding what the purpose and process of an assessment is.
- Receiving follow up about what will happen next.
- The assessor having good local knowledge of services and support.
- Listening properly to what the carer is saying.
- Being respectful of the carers time – not cancelling at the last minute or being late, as they will often have to make arrangements to be able to attend the assessment.
- Taking account of everyone who cares – families are complex, so don’t assume there is one carer and one person who is being cared for. Be aware of possible young carers.
Carers Trust also worked with Skills for care to develop a free e-learning module and other resources for staff. These are available on the Skills for Care website.
It is possible to combine assessments so that the care assessment for the disabled or older person and the carers assessment can take place at the same time. Obviously, this means less staff time is spent and so can seem cost effective.
However although some people will welcome this, for others it may mean they don’t feel able to fully express their feelings and wishes. It is vital that where combined assessments are being considered, this is the informed choice of the carer and the person with care needs.
Some local authorities offer self assessments. Where a carer’s needs are relatively simple and they are settled within their caring role, this may be appropriate.
However many carers do not find self assessments very effective - perhaps because they find it hard to prioritise it, because they do not know what is available or what to ask for. It also does not provide the positive interaction and feeling of being valued and heard which a face to face assessment can offer.
Carers Assessments under the Care Act 2014
The Care Act 2014 removes the need for carers to be undertaking “regular and substantial” care in order to have a right to an assessment.
The new provisions come into force in April 2015 and guidance is currently being consulted upon. You can view the draft guidance online.