Carers support and assessments

About six million people in the UK provide unpaid care for a relative, friend or neighbour in need of support. The lives of carers are varied, but many people share similar concerns and experiences. Many carers try to juggle care with paid work and some care for more than one person.

Carers make a vital contribution to society by enabling the people they care for to remain in the community. It is therefore vital that carers are properly supported to be able to sustain their caring role. The government has introduced the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, which seeks to ensure that carers are identified and informed of their rights, that their needs for education, training, employment and leisure are taken into consideration and that public bodies recognise and support carers.

Social care managers and practitioners are often responsible for assessing carers. These assessments seek to ensure that the carer is fully able to offer the support an individual requires. They also make sure that the needs of the carer are taken fully into account.


Evidence shows that it is important that an assessment takes the carer’s willingness and ability to care into account. This includes their attitude and mental capacity and not just their physical ability to care. Some people may be reluctant to take on a caring responsibility, yet feel a moral obligation to do so.

Others may feel defeated, trapped or depressed. Under the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 assessors are required to consider whether the carer works, wishes to work, or desires to undertake education, training or leisure activity. In addition to ensuring that carers have full access to mainstream resources, assessors must be aware of the resources that are available – locally and nationally – to support carers in pursuing these activities. “Signposting” to the right resources and source of help can only be successful if up-to-date information is available for both assessors and carers.

Scie’s Practice Guide 5: Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 demonstrates that social care policy is increasingly focusing on outcomes for those in receipt of services – rather than on inputs and processes. Yet progress towards person-centred, outcomes-focused policy and practice is patchy. Being acknowledged and listened to is very important to carers and can be an outcome in itself, but development work is needed to embed the outcomes focus into practice.

Research shows that carers are more likely to lack confidence and self-esteem. This, in addition to their availability, is likely to disadvantage them in taking up education, employment or leisure activities. Many carers have been out of the workplace for some time and may need to build skills and confidence before considering work. It is important that people are supported to prepare themselves for a return to the workplace and this should include people whose caring responsibilities have come to an end. Social care workers can point carers to a lot of useful agencies that provide training and work placements prior to employment.


● Provide staff training on outcomes-focused work, with the inclusion of carers as trainers.

● Give carers information about the assessment process, ensuring that they are aware when an assessment is taking place.

● Give carers a list of things to think about (such as a self-assessment component) before a face-to-face meeting.

● Use a partnership approach to carers’ assessment, allowing carers to identify their own desired outcomes.

● Use open questions and avoid a tick box approach.

● Ensure that carers are made aware of any possible charges before services are arranged.

● Ensure that carers have an opportunity to give feedback on the assessment process.

● Encourage flexibility and innovation in identifying services to meet carers’ needs.

● Use an outcomes-focused assessment tool.

● Ensure that carers are offered time to talk away from the cared-for person.

● If necessary, arrange for the carer and the person they care for to be assessed by different people.

● Ensure that the carers of those who refuse services are still offered assessment.

● Ensure that practitioners and carers have access to up-to-date information on local resources for supporting carers in education, training, employment and leisure.

● Ensure that carers are offered support for the cared-for person so that they can have the peace of mind to pursue their own interests. This should include support services outside normal day centre hours and support after school and during school holidays for disabled children.

● Ensure carers are supported to plan for emergencies.

● Assess whether carers need funding for education and training and transport.

● Offer assessments at flexible times to accommodate those in employment.

● Offer welfare rights assessments to carers wishing to take up employment, education or training opportunities.

Further information

Working Together: Carer participation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Department of Health (2005) Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 and Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 combined policy guidance, HMSO.
Carers UK
Age Concern


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