My practice

There are strong messages from government that service users should be offered the chance to engage in self-assessment. Two documents supporting the thinking are the white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say and the Department of Health’s A New Ambition for Old Age: Next Steps in Implementing the National Service Framework for Older People.

In A New Ambition for Old Age, a proposed programme, “Independence, wellbeing and choice”, aims to increase the take-up of assessment by older people without going through a potentially complex or lengthy process for help. Telecare, direct payments and individual budgets also come under this programme.

Our aim of self-assessment is not only to determine eligibility for help from the local authority, but also to allow people to truly self-assess their needs and receive services based on that assessment. Visitors to the Kent Council website can already find out whether they will be eligible for services and can request an assessment.

We’re initially planning to offer an occupational therapy self-assessment that may lead to providing some equipment such as raised toilet seats, perching stools and chair raisers. It would also include minor adaptations such as grab rails.

We have targets to ensure that equipment or adaptations are installed within seven days of when we decide to provide the service. By offering self-assessment, we can reach more people quickly and put services in place at the time of need.

For people with more complex needs, we’ll be building in an indicator that prompts us into offering a full assessment. We’re also hoping that by enabling people with moderate needs to be assessed and receive services in this way, it will free up professional time to deal with more complex cases.

We’re aware that not everyone has access to the internet or will have the skills to do an assessment online, so we will also be offering self-assessment by phone.

Carers and relatives who live far away or who work long or irregular hours will be among the first to gain the benefits. We’ll be able to involve them in the assessment process more easily as they will be able to complete a self-assessment on behalf of family or friends.

At the moment, there are few self-assessment tools like this available. We are working with Anite, the software developers of the social care information system Swift. You may also like to check out the Department of Health-funded self-assessment tool called Sara, available though the Disabled Living Foundation website.

James Lampert is team leader, occupational therapy bureau, Kent Council.

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