Care needs assessment guide

Care needs assessment: a comprehensive overview

4 min read |
Alistair Clay Author

Author 19.04.2023

Alistair Clay

If you notice your loved one struggling at home, it may be time to get a care needs assessment.

A care needs assessment is a free service provided by local councils to help people access adult social care.

It is for people who need help with everyday tasks in order to maintain their independence and age well.

This article guides you through the care needs assessment process, so you can access the right support.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • The care needs assessment details what your social care needs are and how you will pay for them.
  • It is given by a social care professional from your local council and consists of two parts.
  • If you have an eligible care need, your finances will be assessed to see if you qualify for funding. 
  • From October 2023 the financial means test criteria is changing in England. This aims to make care more accessible and affordable.
What is a care needs assessment

What is a care needs assessment?

A care needs assessment is a way to establish how much help you need to live an independent life. 

It is overseen by the local authority or council in the area where you live. 

Because you live in the area and use their services, they have a responsibility to support you if you are struggling with day-to-day tasks – there could be local authority funding for care in your own home.

It focuses on social care rather than any health needs. 

If you require an assessment for care due to a long-term health condition, NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC) is a good place to start.

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

What does the care needs assessment involve?

The social care needs assessment consists of two parts, firstly the needs assessment.

This assesses your needs in 10 key areas of your life to determine where you need help and at what level.

The 10 social care needs assessment areas

  1. Diet and nutrition 
  2. Personal hygiene 
  3. Going to the toilet 
  4. Getting dressed 
  5. Being safe at home 
  6. Housework and domestic duties 
  7. Family, friends and other support networks
  8. Work, volunteering, education, and training 
  9. Accessing essential or recreational services in the community
  10. Carrying out caring responsibilities you have for a child

These 10 assessment areas are used by all councils across England and Wales.

They will look at your capabilities in each area and mark you as able or unable to achieve a task.


What does the care needs assessment involve

Being unable to achieve a task could mean that:

  • you need help with the task
  • you find an activity painful or distressing
  • you put yourself or others in danger by doing it yourself
  • it takes significantly longer than expected

You will be marked as having an ‘eligible need’ for every item on the list you are unable to achieve.

This identifies any social care needs and indicates areas for funding if you are financially eligible. 

There’s more here on financial benefits for elderly.

The financial care needs assessment

The financial assessment

This will look at your personal financial background including income, savings, pensions and benefits.

If the needs assessment indicates that you need care at home, your finances will be checked to decide who pays for that care.

Questions around property

It does not take into account the value of your home if you are planning to stay living in it. 

However, if you plan to move to a residential care facility, your property’s value is included in the assessment. 

If your social care needs are due to an ongoing health condition or disability, NHS Continuing Healthcare may be a better option. 

They use the same care need testing criteria, but focus on getting you the right medical or nursing care.

property and care needs assessment

How to prepare for the assessment

A care needs assessment is carried out by an adult social care worker or occupational therapist at your local council. 

They will ask you questions about your social care needs. 

They are aware and understanding of social care needs, so it’s nothing to be worried about. 

However, being in the spotlight for an official process can be daunting. 

It’s a good idea to think about what you need help with so you can access the right care as soon as possible. 

Be specific with your needs and write them down. For example…

show needs for care needs assessment

Care needs

I need somebody to help me:

  • manage my medication 
  • use the bathroom
  • shower every day 
  • get out of bed
  • get dressed and undressed
  • cook my own meals
  • stay hydrated

Social, cultural and religious needs

I need someone to help me: 

  • get to church
  • visit my family
  • attend doctors appointments 
  • with general wellbeing

You can have somebody, like a friend or family member, help you understand what support you need. 

They can also attend the assessment process with you and support you throughout. 

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Who is financially eligible for care funding?

Funding for care services is made available by local councils. 

You can find your local council here.

While the care needs assessment looks at what care you require, it also looks at your ability to pay for this care

If you have savings above a certain amount, you will not be eligible for funding. 

This means that you have to pay for any care by yourself.

Let’s break down the funding eligibility criteria

Funding eligibility for the care needs assessment is based on 2 figures:

  • The upper capital limit (UCL)
  • The lower capital limit (LCL)

The upper and lower capital limits are used as a guide to award full, partial or no funding. 

Please note that these figures vary for England, Scotland and Wales. 

They are also set to change in October 2023.

changes to funding limits

Figures for all of UK in January 2023

In England and Northern Ireland you must have less than £23,250 in capital (savings etc) to qualify for local authority funding. 

Having less than £23,250 means you may be eligible for partial funding. 

To get full funding in England, you must have £14,250 or less. 

In Scotland the UCL is £29,750 and the LCL is £18,500. 

If you have £29,750 or over you will not be eligible for funding. If you have up to £18,500 you may get full council funding. 

In Wales the UCL is £50,000 and the LCL is £24,000.

This amount or less means that you will be able to get full funding. However, if you have £50,000 or more you will be expected to pay for your own care.

changes to social care funding

Changes to social care funding in England

Due to the risk of unpredictable and unlimited social care costs, the government is set to make some changes to care funding. 

A 2022 UK Government review found that one in seven individuals over 65 will face care costs above £100,000. 

Additionally, roughly one in ten individuals will face care costs, including care home costs, above £120,000 over their lifetime.

Confused about care funding?

Free Care Funding Guide Download

The coming care cap

From October 2023 the care cost reforms will put a cap on care costs at £86,000. This means that no one will have to pay more than this for their care.

Once you have reached the £86,000 cap, the ongoing care costs will be paid for by your local authority. 

Also from October 2023 the care cost reform will see changes to the upper (UCL) and lower (LCL) capital limits. 

This will positively affect eligibility in the financial means part of the care needs assessment.

The primary objective of the policy is to provide people with financial protection from unlimited care costs.

What happens after the assessment?

After the care needs assessment you will be provided with a care plan. 

If the local authority finds you financially eligible for funding from them, they will help you access the care it details. 

It is likely that they have a list of approved providers who they work with.

These providers will likely cover home care visits, live-in care, personal care and help for elderly at home.

It may depend on how much funding you are awarded and can vary between local authorities. 

Equally, they may organise all the care for you, or give you the option to organise it yourself. 

If you are not eligible for funding, you will have to organise, manage and fund all of your own care.


what does the cqc do

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Alistair Clay Author

Author 19.04.2023

Alistair Clay

Alistair is a founding Director of Sweet Pea Care and the Managing Director of social care communications agency Arc Seven where he advises some of the UK’s biggest care providers.