Self-directed Support: A Guide for Carers

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


Everyone who gets support from the Council needs to have an assessment. An assessment is usually carried out by the Council's Social Work Services department and looks at the needs of the person who wants to get support - whether that is you as the carer, or the person you care for.

The assessment is a conversation between you and the Council to decide what kind of support you need and what you would like to do. During these conversations your practitioner will work with you to find out what your needs and outcomes are so that you can get support that is right for you. They will then need to agree what they are able to provide you with, based on your eligibility for support.

If you want the person you look after to be involved in these conversations, they can be. Other family members, or people like carer support workers, can also be involved if you like. But even when other people are involved, the assessment will first and foremost be about you and your outcomes and the support you want.

Carers' assessments

The law says that anyone who provides or intends to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis can have a carer's assessment. No definition of 'substantial' is given, but most people who want to see if they can get support with their caring role are likely to be able to get an assessment. Generally, if the amount of care you are providing is affecting your life and your opportunities to do what you want to do, you can have an assessment.

Even if the person you care for does not want to have an assessment and refuses to speak to a social worker, you can still have a carer's assessment.

A carer can have a carer's assessment whether they live with the person they're looking after or not, whether they are caring full-time, or whether they are working and caring at the same time. If you share caring responsibilities with another person, you can both have a carers' assessment as long as you are both providing substantial amounts of care on a regular basis. A carer's assessment can take place before you start caring (for example, if the person you are looking after is in hospital but will be leaving hospital soon) or at any point afterwards.

How to get a carer's assessment

The best way to get a carer's assessment is to email or write to the Social Work Services department at your Council. You can also phone them to ask for a carer's assessment, but it is a good idea to follow this up in writing. You will be able to choose where the assessment takes place - at home, at the Council offices, or the carers' centre.

What will the assessment be like?

Every assessment will be different. An assessment should be unique to you and your individual circumstances.

The assessment will usually be carried out by a social worker, or sometimes it might be carried out by a carer support worker at your local carers' centre. If the person you look after is in hospital or has recently left hospital, it might be carried out by someone at the hospital.

In some parts of Scotland, the local Council works with the local carers' centre to carry out carers' assessments, and the assessments are done by staff from the carers' centre. Your Social Work Services department will explain who will carry out the assessment.

The assessment will normally be a face-to-face meeting. However, some Councils will ask carers to complete a self-assessment questionnaire before the meeting.

You can have a friend or family member, or someone like a carer support worker with you during the assessment if you wish. The person who you care for can also be there, if you like. Having someone with you should be discussed when the meeting is being arranged.

A self-assessment questionnaire is a form you fill in yourself. It is ideal if you need information, advice or simple adaptations or pieces of equipment. If the self-assessment shows that the carer's needs are more complex, a full carers' assessment should take place as soon as possible.

As part of the carer's assessment, you will be asked about:

  • How being a carer affects you
  • Your own health
  • Your own feelings about caring and how much care you want to do or are able to do
  • How your caring affects work, studying, leisure time, living arrangements and any other commitments such as looking after children
  • Any help you need to care for someone

By the end of the assessment, the Council will have a better idea of what kind of support you need, and you can discuss any support you think you need with them. You will be given the opportunity to say how you want to receive your support and how much control you want to have over the support you get.

The person who does your assessment will help you identify what is important to you, what needs to change, and how to make this change happen.

Young carers can also have assessments in the same way as adult carers have a carer's assessment. Assessments for young carers can be more likely to identify a need for support to the person they are looking after, as well as support given directly to the young carer.

Assessments for young carers will usually involve the young carer's parent or guardian, if they are able to take part. Throughout the assessment, the parent or guardian must work with the Council to ensure that the support will contribute to the child's wellbeing by keeping them:

Safe: protected from abuse, neglect or harm
Healthy: experiencing good physical and mental health, and supported to make healthy safe choices
Achieving: receiving support and guidance in their learning, boosting their skills, confidence and self-esteem
Nurtured: having a nurturing and stimulating place to live and grow
Active: offered opportunities to take part in a wide range of activities - helping them to build a fulfilling and happy future
Respected: to be given a voice and involved in the decisions that affect their well-being
Responsible: taking an active role within their schools and communities
Included: receiving help and guidance to overcome problems and to help them be accepted as full members of the communities in which they live and learn

Assessments for the person you are caring for

If you are caring for someone, they may have an assessment of their own needs. You will usually be involved in this assessment as their carer, as any support that is provided to the person who is being looked after will have to fit in with the care that you are willing or able to provide, or the kind of care that the person wants to get from you as their carer.

For example, a lot of people do not want their family or friends to give them personal care, such as helping them wash or use the toilet. They would prefer care workers or a personal assistant to do this kind of care. Other people might want their carer to give them personal care because they feel more comfortable having someone they know doing this for them, but want someone else to help with household work like cleaning, cooking and washing clothes. Or they might want the carer to drive them to places they want to go, such as college or a day centre. Carers have to be involved in this kind of planning so that they know what they are needed to do, and whether they'll be able to do it or not.

The assessment will take place in more or less the same way as a carer's assessment - it will be done by a social worker, other family or support workers can be involved, and the assessment will be a conversation about needs and outcomes.


Before and during the assessment, you will hear a lot about outcomes, or outcomes-based planning. Outcomes are the things that matter to you, and the results of getting support. So when planning support, people decide what they want to happen and then work out what kind of support will be best to make this happen.

Focusing on outcomes means that people are supported to identify:

  • what is important to you in your life
  • why these things are important
  • how to go about achieving these things
  • who will be involved, including you, other people in your life and community, and services

Outcomes for carers

Outcomes for carers are identified in the same way as outcomes for people who are being looked after. The outcomes might be to remain in employment, be able to keep up with a specific hobby or interest despite having a caring responsibility, to gain more confidence, or to have a regular break from caring.

You might already have an idea what your outcomes are, or you might not. An important part of the assessment is to work together with the Council and others to discover and agree what your outcomes are.

This guide isn't a substitute for a conversation with a qualified social worker or other support organisation, but it can help you to start thinking about what outcomes are important to you.

Support for you and support for the person you care for

As the carer's assessment can also affect the assessment of the person who is looked after, some of your needs as a carer may be included in the support plan of the person you're caring for. Help may be provided for them instead of directly to you, but it will still help you to care.

For example, if you are having difficulties lifting the person you look after, you could be provided with lifting equipment and training on how to lift someone safely. The equipment will be mentioned in the support plan of the person who is looked after, but the lifting equipment will help you to provide care.

If you don't want this information to be written in the support plan of the person you are looking after, then you can ask for your own separate carers' plan.

Who can help with planning support?

There are independent organisations such as advocacy organisations that can help you decide what kind of support you want and what your outcomes should be. Family and friends may also be able to support you.

Carers and the people they care for are often involved in the assessment and support planning process for each other.

Advocacy is a way to help people have a stronger voice and to have as much control as possible over their own lives.

An independent advocate will not make decisions on behalf of the person they are supporting. The independent advocate helps the person to get the information they need to make real choices about their circumstances and supports the person to put their choices across to others. An independent advocate may speak on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves.


Email: Heather Palmer

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