what is a care plan?

What is a care plan? A step-by-step guide

7 min read |

Care plans are a comprehensive document detailing the level and type of care or support that you need as an older person.

They are based on an initial ‘needs assessment’ as carried out by your local council or your care provider.

Having a care plan in place will help provide access to the right support for you or your loved one.

Whether you choose to move into a care home or enlist the help of a domiciliary or a live-in carer, a care plan provides structure to keep you healthy and happy.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover

  • In the UK, care plans are a written document proved by your local council, or care provider.
  • They are the product of a needs assessment, in which your health and financial needs are documented and assessed for funding eligibility. 
  • A care plan provides details about where you would like to live, as well as what type of care you want or need. 
  • Care plans are important as they provide a structure for implementing care. 
  • Having a care plan allows you to set goals for your care with a clear course for actions to help you achieve those objectives. 
why are there care plans?

Understand the purpose of a care plan

It may be a good idea to explore care plan options if you or a loved one is struggling to cope at home.

What does it include?

A care plan will create structure for you and your family.

You could be offered:

  • A personal alarm for emergencies, such as falls
  • Help from home care visitors
  • Rehabilitation services such as occupational therapy or physiotherapy 
  • Equipment or adaptations at home to keep you safe
  • Access to a day centre to meet people and socialise  
  • A place in a care home for round the clock care

Who is involved in the care plan process?

There are a number of different parties involved in the care plan process.

You are going to come across lots of people on your journey, from the local council to local care providers and professionals,

However, it is important that the person who will be receiving the care is kept at the centre of all discussions. 

NHS Continuing Healthcare

Organise a needs assessment

The first step is organising a needs assessment once you have decided a care plan is needed for you or your loved one.

This test is done through your local council. It assesses any health issues you are having as well as what support you require. 

During a needs assessment, the assessor will ask you questions about your health needs as well as your lifestyle. 

This is to get a picture of your day-to-day situation and how it may be impacting your health. 

To determine what factors are relevant to your health and wellbeing, the assessor (who might be a social worker or occupational therapist) might ask you questions about the following:

who needs a care plan?

Prepare for the assessment

Consider talking to your friends and family about the specific needs you have if you are thinking of organising a needs assessment.

They might be able to offer additional insight into the things they think you struggle with. 

Think carefully about what it is that you find difficult to achieve due to your health condition. 

This can be anything from daily tasks such as cooking or cleaning to long term issues like mobility or mental health support. 

Maybe you need dementia care or arthritis care?


It’s a good idea to write a list of things you think you need help with, as well as the goals you would like to achieve with the support of your care plan.
what help is available from the nhs

Your care plan will provide solutions through services and equipment to help you achieve your goals.

For example, these might be that you want to walk up the stairs or be able to do your own shopping.

Avoid downplaying any difficulties you have if you need care at home.

The care plan can only offer support with the things you discuss during the assessment. 

If you are experiencing pain, distress or anything else when it comes to daily activities, make sure you talk about it during the assessment. 

And don’t assume that the person carrying out the assessment knows about your difficulties or your aims. 

Financial eligibility

You will be checked for financial eligibility by your local council after your needs assessment.

This is to decide whether or not they can help fund your care and perhaps who will be paying for home care.

Confirm eligibility

If the council finds you to be eligible, the adult social care team at your local authority will create a care plan.

This plan will list the outcomes that you want to achieve as well as well as who or what can help you achieve them.

when should someone with dementia go into a care home

Funding your care plan

Depending on your financial situation, you may find that 

  • The council agree to cover the full cost of care
  • They concur to cover some of the cost of your care 
  • The council is unable to contribute any level of funding for your care. 

For most people, it is likely you will have to contribute something towards paying for your care needs. 

You should decide who will manage the costs of your care

  • Ask the council to arrange the care service for you
  • Receive payments from your local council and organise the care yourself (this is called a personal health budget).
  • Have a mixture of both.
  • If there are some things you feel more comfortable organising, you can receive direct payments for these.
arthritis self care

Can someone help you?

You may want to agree with an advocate.

They will help you manage finances if you are receiving payments from the council,

Some people will not be eligible for a care plan through your local council.

This could be due to your financial ability to pay for your own care.

For example, owning assets or having over £23,250 in savings could restrict your access to funded health care.

Can you receive a care plan if you are not eligible for council funding?

If you are able to meet the cost of your care on your own, you will not receive a care plan from the council.

However, you can apply the same principles that the care plan uses for organising care. 

If you are organising your own care, you should consider where you would like to live and how this will be achievable for you.

care plan for vulnerable elderly

Follow the care plan

You may have to contact some of the providers yourself to arrange support once the written care plan is delivered.

Either you, or whoever is helping you arrange support, must share the care plan document with the teams responsible for your care. 

So whether it’s care staff at a care home, visiting carers, occupational therapists or your GP, the professionals involved in meeting your care needs will be aware of your care plan.

live in home care

Review the new care plan

You should have a review at around six to eight weeks after your care plan has been implemented.

This allows you to check-in with the people who are responsible for your care plan, raise concerns or provide feedback.

After that, you should be reassessed every 12 months.

It is crucial that your care needs are adapted if you experience changes. 

This being said, even if a review is not due, you can contact your provider to report any change to your situation.

So there you have it, a complete guide to care plans.

Good luck getting the right one for you or your loved one.