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A carer's guide to a care needs assessment

A care needs assessment could be the first step towards getting more help and support with daily life for the person we care for. It can also mean they receive additional services or direct payments to help them, and so take some of the pressure off us.


In this guide we will explore what a care needs assessment is, how to get one, and some common questions around them.

Illustration of person working on mindset

“It’s definitely worth it. My husband now has three days of care a week and I got so much help and advice.”

Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

Whether we have a particular question about care needs assessments, or just want a deeper understanding of the process, this is the place to come. We may wish to read through the entire guide to increase our understanding, or just dip into a specific section below.

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What is a CA?

What is a care needs assessment?


We may or may not have heard of care needs assessments, but what exactly are they? A care needs assessment, also known in some areas as a needs assessment, or a community care assessment or social care assessment in Scotland. It is a free process used to identify someone's individual needs for care and support.

It can help to determine what services and assistance a person may need to maintain or improve their well-being, manage any disabilities, and live as independently as possible. This assessment enables us to help the person we care for to access social care services and support, and in turn to take some of the responsibilities (financial, practical, or just the sheer task load) off us.

While not everything suggested in the plan created from a care needs assessment will be free, it is often at least partly funded. How much the cared for will need to pay will depend on the severity of their condition, what services are required, their financial situation, and the policies of our individual local authority or council.

“Just had a call to confirm funding has been agreed. I'm delighted” 

Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

A care needs assessment might become required for a number of reasons, such as ageing, disability, illness, or any change in circumstances affecting the individual's ability to manage their daily activities. But in short, if someone needs support with daily tasks, they probably could benefit from a care needs assessment.

If someone coming out of hospital is likely to need ongoing care, a care needs assessment will also be part of their hospital discharge process.

What happens?

What happens at a care needs assessment?

Once we have requested a care needs assessment for the person we look after, the waiting time for the assessment will depend on the severity of the situation and availability of our local support services. 

The assessment can take about an hour to go through. A trained assessor (which could be a social worker, nurse, or other healthcare professional) will conduct the assessment.


This can happen in the individual's home, over the phone, or online, depending on the situation and available services.


If we are the ones completing the assessment for the person we care for it is worth remembering that being thorough in their caring needs is vital to make sure they receive the support they need. Below, we explore some tips to help us feel as confident and prepared as possible before the assessment takes place. 

The assessment will look at a wide range of needs, including personal care, mobility, nutrition, social interaction, and mental health. It also covers their wellbeing, goals, concerns, and any personal circumstances that may need to be taken into account. 

The outcome of a care needs assessment is a detailed plan that outlines someone's care needs and recommends services and support to meet those needs. This might look like home care services, equipment to aid daily living, adaptations to the home, or referrals to other services like physiotherapy or mental health support.

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“It’s definitely worth it. My husband now has three days of care a week and I got so much help and advice.”

Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

While this is aimed at helping the person we care for, it will in turn provide us with more support in our caring roles. It might result in equipment to make tasks such as lifting the one we care for easier, or additional services such as paid carers or access to respite, meaning we can get a much needed break.


What's the difference between a care needs assessment and a carers assessment?

We may be wondering how a carer needs assessment is any different to a carer’s assessment. While they can sometimes be carried out at the same time, a care needs assessment and a carer's assessment are related but distinct processes. Both are aimed at creating a support plan, but designed to assist different needs. 

“It wasn’t easy to admit I needed help after all the years I have managed on my own. But we have a really good support package in place now. My husbands about to have his first ever week of respite and he’s actually really looking forward to it.”

Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

While a care needs assessment focuses on the person who requires support due to illness, disability, ageing, or other reasons, a carer's assessment is aimed at evaluating the needs of the ones who are providing unpaid care to a friend, family member, or another individual.

Both assessments are vital in ensuring care being provided is effective, but also sustainable for all involved to help avoid carer burnout. If the person we care for is reluctant to start the process, it can be helpful to list out all we are doing for them, and explain that the assessment is not just to help them. But us too.

My mum was very reluctant to have any external help, but she really looks forward to the visits now.”

Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

It is also worth noting that if we have our own healthcare needs we might want to consider getting a care needs assessment for ourselves. This would be in addition to the carer’s assessment for our caring roles, and the care needs assessment for the one we look after. 

While this can feel like an overwhelming amount of caring admin, they are vital to getting the support in place that will help us to keep going. Read some tips for carers, by carers, on coping with the admin side of our roles.


Who can have a care needs assessment?


Anyone over the age of 18 who needs care and support can have a free needs assessment. It doesn’t matter how simple or complex their needs, or what their income or savings are.

Types of people who may qualify for a care needs assessment are: 

  • Elderly individuals - those who may require assistance due to age-related challenges such as mobility limitations, faulty, alzheimer's, dementia, or other health conditions

  • People with disabilities - those with physical, sensory, cognitive, or intellectual disabilities which impacts their daily activities, mobility, communication, or other aspects of their lives

  • People with a chronic illnesses - those living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disorders, or neurological conditions 

  • People with mental health conditions - this might be depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other psychiatric conditions 

  • Temporary conditions - those facing temporary challenges due to injury, surgery, or other health issues might need a care needs assessment to facilitate their recovery and rehabilitation.

If we are looking for support for someone we care for under the age of 18, there is a similar process specifically for children called a children's needs assessment. The process is similar, but conducted by services who specialise in children and young adults.


Find more information on this in Seven things a parent carer needs to know

How does it help?

How does a care needs assessment help me as the carer?


While the care needs assessment is for the person we care for, the support they get as a result should take some of the pressure off of us.


Illustration of person working on mindset

“What has surprised me is how quick things have been put in place.”

 Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

The process of getting an assessment can help us to list out and understand the specific tasks and activities that the person we care for needs help with. This might include, personal care, respite, medication management, mobility support, or emotional support.

This can help us to prioritise and plan out our time, get additional support, access services which help the person we care for, or possibly make adaptations to their home. It will also create a personalised care plan, which can be invaluable when we come to creating our emergency plan

While not everything recommended in the personalised care plan will be free, a lot of it will be at least partly funded by our local authority or council. This can take some of the financial pressure off if we have been covering paid carers, home adaptations for the one we care for, or other services. 

A care needs assessment is also the first step in getting access to respite for the one we care for, which is vital in giving us a bit of a break. 

In addition to this, completing a care needs assessment can be a great way to improve communication between ourselves, healthcare professionals, the person we look after, and others involved with providing their care. Having one clear plan ensures that everyone involved is on the same page.

Having a plan that covers everything the person we care for needs can also help to make us feel more confident and in control. Hopefully this will go a little way towards reducing some of the stress that often comes hand in hand with caring.


“Knowing I have extra support in place means I am less stressed at night and so sleeping better.”

 Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

How do I get?

How do I get a care needs assessment for the person I look after?

Anyone can request a needs assessment for another person. Please note, if we or the person we care for needs urgent support, the local council or trust can step in and provide services before an assessment has been carried out. If we need support now, we can contact our GP, emergency services, 111, or our local social services - depending on the severity of the situation.

The assessment will be conducted by a qualified healthcare professional or social worker with expertise in assessing care needs.​


“We never want to admit we need help, but it makes life so much better when we do.”

 Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

The steps involved with requesting and receiving a care needs assessment do vary depending on where we live, and the specific social services systems in place in our area. However, the general process will always be similar.

Contact your local authority or health service


The first step is to contact the social services department of your local authority or council. We can find their details by putting our postcode in their online tool. Let them know you’re requesting a care needs assessment for the person you care for. At this stage basic information may be requested. Such as, their condition, our relationship to them, and why we believe they need additional support.

An example of how to phrase your request could be:
"I believe the person I care for requires additional support to manage their daily activities and health. Can we arrange a needs assessment to determine what services might be beneficial?"

“I contacted adult social care of my local council. They then arranged to come out to do an assessment of our needs. They also looked at our finances to see if we can get funding for the care we need. It was difficult at first, but worth it!”

 Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

Processes like this can feel long, complicated, and intimidating. If we are finding the idea daunting, there are nonprofits and advocacy groups that can provide support throughout the assessment process.


We could try an online search for care needs assessment support and the name of our location to see what options there are. Our local carer support centre can also often provide help and guidance on the process.


How do I prepare for a care needs assessment?

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If we’re completing the needs assessment for the person we care for, or we are helping them to prepare, it can be helpful to gather all the relevant information ahead of the assessment.

Write down as much detail as possible, about all the everyday tasks the person we care for struggles with. For example, this might include using drawer handles or taps, holding a hair brush, remembering to take medication, preparing meals, accessing the community or washing themselves.

While it can feel hard, it is worth writing this based on a ‘bad day’, where the person we care for is struggling the most with day to day activities. This is the best way to get the right level of support in place. If we are helping the one we care for while they go through this process, we should encourage them not to minimise the impact of their condition on what feels challenging. It is often tempting to ‘play down’ how difficult things can be, but ultimately this won’t get them the support they need.

Once we have thought about tasks, the next step is to write down what might be relevant about the needs and preferences of the person we care for. For example, if there are things they really like doing for themselves, or if they struggle with new people and so would find a rotating support staff challenging.

“I had such barriers from my parents when I suggested an assessment, such as “we don’t need help”, “we don’t want strangers in the house”. But after several months they were very relaxed with the lady who comes twice a week. This then gave them confidence to get carers in to wash mum, and eventually in the evening too when Dad realised how much less stressed he was by having some help.”

 Unpaid carer from the Mobilise Community

It is great to include the person we care for as much as possible in this process. This not only gives them an opportunity to have their say, but to highlight some things we might not have known. This will depend on their cognitive ability and possibly their willingness. 

Some info

Some information we might find useful for the care needs assessment:


  • Medical records: Gather any relevant medical records, including diagnoses, treatment plans, medications, and recent medical assessments or evaluations and put them in one place such as a folder for the meeting

  • Daily activities: Make a list of the individual's daily activities and tasks, including personal care, mobility, meal preparation, medication management, household chores, and social activities and outline what they do or don’t find challenging to do for themselves 

  • Support network: Any family members, friends, or neighbours who are involved in providing care or support to the individual

  • Emotional needs: While it can be easy to focus on the practical tasks, considering their well-being and the factors that improve or impact their mental health (such as loneliness, anxiety, depression) can be really helpful to include in the assessment. If not being able to do something such as get out the house once a day will impact their quality of life, this needs to be taken into account

  • Social interactions: Note how ready and able the person we care for is to interact with others. Do they find it easy and enjoyable to chat to lots of different people, or can that easily feel overwhelming

  • Home environment: This is an opportunity to flag any concerns about the safety of their home environment. If they are prone to falling down, or struggle with stairs, adding a stair lift or mobility handles might need to be considered

  • Mobility: How easy is it for the person we care for to get around, and is this stable or likely to decline? There are options for things like wheelchairs to be provided for free where required (although this can also depend on availability) 

  • Personal preferences: It is always worth including the individual's preferences, values, and goals regarding their care and support. This includes preferences related to cultural or religious practices, preferred language, dietary preferences, and lifestyle choices. We don’t want to spend time and energy sorting extra support for care if they are likely to then refuse it

  • Any questions: We might want to prepare some questions in advance that we, or the person we care for, may have about the services available, or the needs assessment process. This might include next steps, timing, a point of contact, how much of what they recommend is likely to be fully funded, how to update any changes, and what to do if we disagree with the assessors recommendations.  

Once we have all the information to hand, we might want to consider other areas of the assessment. This might include how we will communicate what we need to (would a list help to keep us on track?), and any examples we might want to give. Real life examples of the challenges can make it easier to understand.

It is best to be as open and honest as possible. And it can help to understand that the assessor’s questions (whilst they may appear nosey), are intended to get the information needed to get the right support. 

Making sure we feel well prepared for a care needs assessment, can not only help to ensure we get the most accurate support for the person we care for, but help us feel more confident going into it.

Top tips

Top tips when completing a

care needs assessment

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Completing a care needs assessment is a crucial step in securing the necessary support and services for someone we care for. Whether we are doing the assessment on their behalf, or just there for moral support, being prepared and proactive can make a significant difference in the outcome. Here are top tips to keep in mind when completing a care needs assessment:

Tip 1

1. Have someone there with us


If we are likely to feel anxious, overwhelmed, or emotional when talking about the needs of the person we care for, we might want to have a friend or relative there with us. If we don’t have anyone we would feel comfortable including, we might want to look online for local advocacy services who can send someone. Your local carers centre may be able to support you here.

Tip 2

2. Be thorough and detailed


As outlined in our section “how to prepare for a care needs assessment”, we will want to share as much detail as possible about the person we care for, to ensure they get the best level of support.


We (or the person we care for) may feel tempted to minimise their care needs, but it's important to honestly communicate their situation and needs. And to anticipated future needs, considering how their condition may progress over time.

Tip 3

3. Don't be afraid to ask questions


The assessment is also an opportunity for us, and the person we care for, to ask any question we may have. Preparing questions in advance about available services, funding, and the next steps in the process is a good idea.


We explored some suggested questions in “Some information we might find useful for the care needs assessment”.​

Tip 4

4. Request a copy of the assessment


It is completely within our right to ask for a copy after the assessment is complete. This not only allows us to have a record of what was discussed, but is also an opportunity to read through it later and check for anything we may have forgotten to include.

Tip 5

5. Make a note to follow Up


If we haven't heard back within the expected timeframe, or if any circumstances change, don't hesitate to follow up with the assessing body. One of the questions we may wish to ask during the assessment is what the best point of contact will be moving forwards.

Tip 6

6. Keep the care needs assessment updated


Don’t see this as a one and done. Once the care plan is agreed and the services are in place, it should be reviewed regularly. A lot of conditions can progress or change over time, meaning what the best support looks like will also change. How regularly we review the plan depends on how quickly things change for the person we care for.

If there is a change to their living situation, or a medical change that impacts their independence, we will want to update the plan as soon as possible. Or we may want to make a note to run through the plan every six months, or once a year, to check if it still feels accurate. The service who provides our care needs assessment can tell us the best way to let them know when we need to adapt it.

Tip 7

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help


  • Online platforms like the Mobilise Hub, Reddit, specific condition-related forums, or Facebook groups can offer peer support and advice from other carers who have gone through similar processes

  • Our local council's social services department should be able to provide help with an assessment – they have a tool to help us find the right contact details.

  • If we are completing an assessment for someone due to their mental health, Mind provides support for individuals dealing with mental health issues, including advice on accessing social care services

  • If we are completing the assessment for someone elderly, Age UK's free helpline on 0800 055 6112 can answer common questions around care needs assessment

What if I'm not happy?

What if I’m not happy with the results of my care needs assessment?

If we disagree with the results of the needs assessment, or how it was done, we always have a right to challenge it. We can challenge or appeal any decisions that we do not meet the needs of the person we care for.

Nervous woman on the phone

To start, we can request to see the decision making in writing, with an explanation of considerations and evidence. This might highlight to us where something the person we care for finds challenging to do for themselves has been missed, or misunderstood.

We can also go back to the service who did the assessment and request a review of the decision, which will need to be made in writing. This gives us an opportunity to add any reasons as to why we think the result of the assessment is inaccurate.

If this review does not change the result, we can then request a formal appeal. The exact process for an appeal will vary depending on the service who provided our care needs assessment. There should be an explanation of the process on their website, and they should be willing to explain it to us if we ask. 

If we’re not happy with the way our council or local authority handles a complaint, we can take it further. Community Legal Advice offers free legal advice in the UK for those eligible for legal aid. 

Throughout this process it’s helpful to log records of any meetings, conversations, or emails around the assessment. The appeal process can sometimes take a while and involve different authorities, so keeping all the information in one place can be invaluable. Our guide to making complaints can support you further.

Citizens Advice provides comprehensive guidance on various topics, including how to challenge decisions about health and social care. 


It is also worth noting that if the person we care for doesn’t qualify for support, they must still be given information and advice on what can be done to meet their needs now and how to prevent their needs getting worse in future.

Example of a care needs assessment

Example of a care needs assessment


While the format and content of a care needs assessment can vary depending on the healthcare system, the local service providing the assessment, and the specific needs of the person we care for, below is an outline of what a completed care needs assessment might look like.

Example Outline of a Completed Care Needs Assessment:


1. Personal Information:

  • Name of the individual being assessed

  • Date of birth

  • Contact information

  • Next of kin or emergency contact details

2. Background Information:

  • Brief overview of the individual's medical history and current health conditions

  • Summary of any disabilities, impairments, or limitations affecting daily activities

  • Living situation (e.g., living independently, with family, in a care facility)

3. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs):

Assessment of the individual's ability to perform basic activities of daily living, including:

  • Personal hygiene (bathing, grooming, toileting)

  • Dressing and undressing

  • Mobility (walking, transferring, using mobility aids)

  • Eating and drinking

  • Managing medications

4. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs):

Assessment of the individual's ability to perform more complex activities necessary for independent living, including:

  • Meal preparation and cooking

  • Housekeeping and laundry

  • Managing finances and bills

  • Using transportation and accessing community resources

  • Communicating effectively (telephone, writing, using technology)

5. Health and Medical Needs:

  • Overview of the individual's medical conditions, treatments, and healthcare needs

  • Medication management, including dosage, frequency, and any assistance required

  • Specialised healthcare needs (e.g., wound care, physical therapy, medical equipment)

6. Cognitive and Mental Health Assessment:

  • Evaluation of the individual's cognitive functioning, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills

  • Assessment of mental health status, including mood, anxiety, depression, and any cognitive or behavioural changes

7. Social and Emotional Support:

  • Identification of the individual's social support network, including family, friends, and community resources

  • Assessment of social activities, hobbies, and interests

  • Evaluation of emotional well-being and any social isolation or loneliness concerns

8. Safety and Risk Assessment:

  • Evaluation of home environment for safety hazards, fall risks, and accessibility issues

  • Identification of potential risks related to medication management, self-care activities, and mobility

  • Recommendations for home modifications or assistive devices to enhance safety and independence

9. Caregiver Support Needs:

  • Assessment of the caregiver's needs, including physical, emotional, and practical support required to provide care

  • Identification of caregiver stressors, challenges, and available support resources

10. Summary and Recommendations:

  • Summary of assessment findings and identified care needs

  • Recommendations for support services, interventions, and care plan goals

  • Referrals to relevant healthcare professionals, community services, or support groups

11. Signature and Date:

Signatures of the assessor and the individual being assessed, along with the date of the assessment

Please note: This example provides a general outline and may not encompass all elements included in every care needs assessment.

You've reached the end of the guide!

There can be lots of research and preparation ahead of a care needs assessment. If it's new to us, it's a lot to grasp in one go - which is okay.


The good news is there are thousands of carers also navigating the world of caring over in the Mobilise Hub. Have a question about a care needs assessment? Or have a top tip or experience to share? Join us, we'd love to know. 

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