Self-directed Support: A Guide for Carers

A guide for Carers who are looking after someone who gets support from the local council.

Support for carers

Why do carers need self-directed support?

Carers need support because although caring is often very rewarding, it can also be very difficult at times. Carers can often have poor health due to their caring role, or they can feel very isolated and alone because their caring means they do not have the time or the money to do the things they want to do, such as work, enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends and family or go on holiday. To care safely and stay healthy, carers need information, support, respect and recognition from the professionals who are in contact with them and their families. Carers might also need specific support to be able to manage their work and caring roles, or to return to work if they have lost their employment due to caring.

Carers should be able to choose and control how they get their support in the same way as the people they look after do. From April 2014, Councils will have to offer support to carers if a carer's assessment has been completed and it is found that they should get support. All of the options to get support that are available will also be available to carers.

Carers are able to get support from a carers' centre or carers' service whether or not the Council have offered you self-directed support. Any support you get through SDS will be in addition to getting information, advice and support from a carers' centre or any other kind of support organisation that the Council tells you about. However, carers' centres can help you and the person you look after to get in touch with the Council, have an assessment and decide what kind of support is right for them and for you. If you are interested in self-directed support and would like to know more about it, your local carers' centre will be able to help you. They can also work through this guide with you.

If you are caring for someone with a specific condition or illness, you might also be able to get support from an organisation or charity that provides information and advice about that condition. If you haven't done so already, try searching the internet for information about the condition or illness, or speak to your doctor, social worker or carers' centre.

The supported person's pathway

The supported person's pathway shows the stages of planning for support. There are a number of steps in the pathway, but the step that you begin from will be different depending on your situation.

If you have not previously been getting any support but think that you might need support, you will start at the beginning - Step 1.

If you are currently getting support and want to change it, you will start at another stage. It will usually be at review stage, but you may need another assessment if your needs have changed since your last one.

Supporting the person you care for to get self-directed support

Carers who are involved in helping the person they look after to access self-directed support will be involved in many stages of the pathway, depending on how involved the person you are looking after wants you to be. The supported person's pathway shows how you as a carer can help with support planning, and how the care you provide will complement the other support that is given.

The Person's Pathway

There are different steps to getting support. The steps are called the Person's Pathway. Here's how it might work for you.

The Person's Pathway

Self-directed support for carers

If the carer is receiving support in their own right, they will follow all the stages in the pathway, as they are the person getting support. It may not be as straightforward, because supporting a carer might involve providing services to the person they're looking after rather than directly to them, but the general process is the same.

How do you know if you will be able to get support?

In order to get support, Councils need to know if you are eligible. All Councils have eligibility criteria, which is how they decide whether you need support from them or not.

During the assessment, the person doing it will talk to you about how you cope with your caring role, and how you will be able to cope and continue with caring if they do not give you any support, and what the risks would be to you and the person you're looking after.

There are four levels that the Council identify based on the information you give them as part of the assessment:

  • Critical - this means that there is a very high risk that the carer will not be able to begin caring for someone, or continue to care for someone, without having major problems in their own life, health or relationships, and they need to get support immediately.
  • Substantial - this means that there is a risk that the carer will not be able to begin or continue caring for someone without experiencing some major problems in some parts of their life, and they need to get support very soon.
  • Moderate - this means that there is some risk that the carer will not be able to begin or continue caring without moderate changes to some aspects of their life, and may need some support.
  • Low - this means that there is a low risk to the carer and they will only have to change some parts of their life in order to begin or continue caring, and may need some low-level or preventative support put in place.

Each Council is different, but usually it is only people with critical or substantial needs who are given a full package of support, as they would be at risk if the Council did not provide a service to them.

People with moderate or low needs will be given information, advice, and details about other support that is available for them, but they may not receive any services from the Council directly. They will always give you information about the local carers' centre or carers' service, so that you can get some support from there if you are not doing so already. They may also give you information about other charities or support organisations in your local area, printed information or websites. Don't be afraid to ask for this kind of information - Councils have to provide this to you.

If your circumstances change in the future and you are finding it more difficult to cope with caring, or you are providing more care, or looking after more people, you may become eligible for support. You can have another assessment done if your circumstances change so much that you think you might need more support.

The Council will also look at whether providing some support to you now will mean there is less need for support in the future. This is known as preventative support.


The Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 introduces the right for carers not to be charged for any support they receive as a carer. Charges cannot be made for support provided to carers to continue in their caring role, whether directly provided by local authorities or commissioned by the local authority through voluntary organisations or private organisations.

This does not apply to services that are provided to the person who is being cared for. In this case, the normal charging for non-residential care services will still apply. In the case of short breaks, the elements of the break that are provided for the carer will not be charged.

More information is available at


Email: Heather Palmer

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