I provide care for my loved one – am I entitled to any support?
Caring for a loved one can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. You may not even think of yourself as a carer, particularly if you are caring for a parent, or close friend. Caring can include providing help with washing, dressing, eating, shopping, taking to appointments and keeping someone company. If your loved one has a progressive condition, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by changes in their behaviour and symptoms or their increasing level of care needs. With the right support, it is less likely that you will find your caring role daunting, and more likely that you will be able to cope with day to day stresses your role as a carer brings.
It is important to check that you and your loved one are receiving all appropriate benefits and discounts on bills (such as council tax) that you are entitled to. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can provide you with free advice with regard to this. It is also important that you and your loved one are registered with a GP.
Since April 2015 you may also be eligible for support under the Care Act 2014. This can include direct payments, to spend on things that make caring easier, or practical support like arranging for someone to step in when you need a short break or when you need help with housework, gardening or childcare. You can be provided with assistance with taxi fares, if you don’t drive, exercise classes to reduce stress, or training so that you can lift or transfer your loved one safely. The local authority can also put you in touch with support groups so that you don’t feel isolated.
You are entitled to ask the local authority to carry out a “carer’s assessment”. A carer in these circumstances is defined as someone who over the age of 18 who gives unpaid care and support to an adult family member or friend over the age of 18 in their own home or elsewhere. This is separate to a “care and support assessment” that your loved one will be entitled to, in order to assess their needs.
How do I apply for a carer’s assessment?
Anyone who needs support with their caring duties should be offered a carer’s assessment. If you have not been offered a carer’s assessment, you can request it by:
- Contacting the local authority where the person you care for lives;
- Being referred by your GP;
- Being referred by a friend or family member.
You can contact the local authority by telephone, email or online to request an assessment. You will find the details on their website. Once you have made a request, you should be given an appointment for your assessment.
You can decide whether you would rather have a carer’s assessment on your own, or a “combined assessment” with your loved one, so that their care and support needs are assessed at the same time.
Who will carry out the assessment?
The carer’s assessment is organised by social services and is carried out by a trained social worker, another professional (such as an occupational therapist) or a local voluntary organisation.
Where will it be carried out?
Most assessments are carried out in face to face meetings, either at your home or at social services’ offices. Some local authorities offer the option to have the assessment over the telephone or online.
What does the assessment involve?
The assessment looks at how caring impacts on your life, including your physical, mental and emotional needs. The following areas should be covered in the interview:
- What does your caring role consist of? How much time do you spend caring for your loved one and what tasks do you help them with?
- What are your feelings and choices about caring? Are able to continue with this role?
- How does your caring role effect you? Does it have a significant impact on your wellbeing (physical and mental), taking into account the following:
a. Your health;
b. Your work;
c. Your family commitments;
d. What you enjoy doing to relax;
e. Planning for emergencies.
If any of the above issues are not discussed, make sure you raise them if they are relevant. If you can show that your caring duties have a significant impact on your physical and/or mental health, the local authority has a legal duty to meet those needs, subject to a financial assessment being carried out.
Preparing for your assessment
You can prepare for your assessment by thinking about the following (make notes and take them into the assessment with you):
- Will you be able to voice any concerns you have if the person you care for is present? If the answer is no, you should see if someone else can care for your loved one while you have the assessment;
- Do you want, or are you able, to carry on caring for your family member or friend? Your decision to care for your relative or friend is voluntary, and no one can force you to undertake this role. If the role is too much for you, the local authority will need to arrange care;
- If you are able and willing to continue, is there anything that could make your life easier? For instance, do you need help with gardening, housework or childcare?
- Without support, is there a risk that you might not be able to continue caring for your loved one?
- Do you have any physical or mental health problems that make your role as carer more difficult? It is important to set out what they are and how they impact on your wellbeing. This could include suffering from depression, sleeping problems and/or anxiety issues;
- Does your role as carer impact on your emotional and/or physical health? If so, in what way?
- Does being a carer affect your relationships with other people? This can include the person you are caring for as well as other family and friends;
- If you have a job, does being a carer cause problems? For instance, does your caring role mean that you are often late for work, can’t concentrate at work, or can’t attend work related events?
- Do you have arrangements in place to cover for urgent situations, such as your loved one needing to go into hospital?
- Would you like more time to yourself? If so, what would you like to do? Do you need a break or time to be able to enjoy social/leisure activities? If you do not look after your own physical and mental health, it is less likely that you will be able to care for someone else;
- Would you like to do some training, voluntary work or paid work? If so, what would you like to do?
What should happen afterwards?
When the assessment is complete, the local authority will decide whether your needs are eligible for support. If you do not have eligible needs, then you should be given a written decision explaining it. The council should also give you advice and information about other sources of help in your area.
If you do have eligible needs, the local authority must offer support to meet those needs. You can decide if you want to accept the offer of support or not. Most councils offer free support to carers, however, some may charge for these services. If you are eligible for a service that the council charges for it is likely that you will be asked to complete a financial assessment, so see if you can afford to contribute to the cost of the service. If the council supports you by providing more support and social care services to your loved one (so that you have more time to yourself) they are likely to arrange a financial assessment of the person you care for, to see if they can afford to contribute to the cost of the services.
Details of your eligible needs and how these should be met should be written up in a support plan. You should receive a copy of your support plan. If you don’t receive it, ask for it. Check that you are happy with the support plan and that it identifies your needs correctly. If you are unhappy, ask for a review, or raise a complaint. In my next blog I will be looking at ways in which a carer’s (or care and support) assessment can be challenged.
If you or your loved one have care and support needs, our Court of Protection team can assist you in ensuring that those needs are correctly identified and that you receive the support required to meet those needs.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*