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Adult Social Care – What Is It And What Support is Available?

George Griffiths

20 July 2021

Adult Social Care – What Is It And What Support is Available?

George Griffiths

20 July 2021

Understanding social care in the UK can feel difficult. 

When we start talking about GP referrals, private care home providers, Clinical Commissioning Groups and local authority care funding, it's evident why so many people find it challenging to understand. 

But, it's equally vital to share information about the services available. There are around two million new requests every year for adult social care support.

People struggle for many complex reasons, which could be physical, medical, social, emotional or mental, so putting together that puzzle of adult social care availability is key.

We’ve collated this short guide to explain what adult social care is, the support you can access and where to find it.

What is adult social care?

Adult social care encompasses a wide range of services designed to help adults with difficulties in their lives. 

That could be a mental health condition, a physical disability, or anything else.

Support depends on the needs of the individual but can be:

  • Personal care assistance with eating, dressing and washing
  • Domestic help with cleaning or buying groceries
  • Delivered through a residential care home
  • Provided to people living in their own residence
  • Paid for by local councils or privately funded

Adult social care doesn’t look the same between any two people. 

In those over 65, the primary demand is physical support, such as mobility aids and help staying active in later life.

From 18-64, the highest demand for adult social care services is in learning disabilities and mental health support in younger adults.

What adult social care services are available in the UK?

As we've discovered, adult social care teams help people in the community in multiple ways. 

Some of the typical settings include:

  • Care homes, nursing homes and domiciliary care at home
  • Re-enablement services, helping people regain independence after a health crisis or disruptive life events
  • Short breaks and carers respite facilities
  • Shared Lives care, where people shared a living space with trained carers
  • Additional care housing, with private accommodation alongside on-demand care when the resident needs help

Adult social care isn't reserved for the elderly or residential homes; it's available across society, either short or long-term.

When a person needs 24/7 support, they might be offered a place in a care home or have a personal carer visit them regularly to help out at home.

Alternatively, they might be offered home alterations or equipment like a walking frame or personal alarm. 

Adults with children can be offered daycare funding or adult clubs and social centres where they can receive one-on-one help and opportunities to chat with other people living with similar circumstances.

Who can use UK adult social care services?

A lot depends on the services available in your local area and whether the local authority will provide government funding for your social care needs.

That relies on an assessment, looking at your wealth and finances. 

The council will usually cover the costs of adult social care for those on low incomes or without the capacity to pay for private services.

Otherwise, adult social care looks after people over 18 who are homeless or have:

  • Autism
  • Learning disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Mental health conditions
  • Sensory impairments
  • HIV/Aids

You can find local authority adult social care services in your nearby area by browsing via postcode in the NHS search function.

Getting help with adult social care needs

The first step if you, or someone close, needs help is to request a needs assessment. You can apply for a social services needs assessment via the GOV.uk site.

An assessment is a reasonably straightforward process and usually means a healthcare professional, occupational therapist or social worker will arrange a time to talk to you.

They'll ask about things like:

  • Where you're struggling to manage
  • What everyday tasks present a challenge
  • How well you can get about, and cook meals

They will also potentially ask for a home assessment, which is organised separately. 

That process is purely to see whether some easy solutions could make your life happier.

Examples include installing some grab rails over the bath or funding a walk-in shower.

To help ensure you cover everything in an adult social care needs assessment, you can prepare with a checklist from Later Life Care, which shows a list of the standard questions.

If the adult social care assessment is for a friend or relative, you can accompany them as an advocate to help complete forms or answer questions.

An assessment report normally takes a week and details the outcome and any services the assessor thinks you need.

Who covers the cost of adult social care services?

There is a potential that an assessment will report that:

  • It would help if you had some social care, but you don't qualify for government funding, OR
  • You don't need formal care support

That doesn't mean you cannot find help or adult social care activities that will help improve your quality of life.

If a social worker can't provide a solution, they may make other recommendations. 

That might be signposting community services or support groups outside of the mainstream adult social care provision that they think will be beneficial. 

Most people will need to make contributions towards the costs of social care. 

Still, those are generally subsidised or nominal fees, meaning that equipment like easy-stand chairs or reading devices will cost substantially less than you would expect to pay privately.

Your council will also provide a financial means test, and if you are in a low-income bracket or don't have the resources to cover any care costs, the local authority will contribute.

Most councils will pay for care costs for people with savings under £23,250.

However, the rules vary between local authorities - so some will include the value of your home, but others will only look at earnings, pensions, benefits and savings.

The NHS Financial Assessment page provides more detail about this process and eligibility for free or low-cost adult social care support

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