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Independent living FAQs

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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F33

Your feedback wanted

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) have recently launched their new ‘Tell Us About Your Care’ partnerships with a number of national charities, of which Disability Rights UK is one. This involves Disability Rights UK gathering feedback from disabled people about their experiences of using health and social care services. The CQC would welcome feedback on your experience of using any of the services they regulate. Please click here to do so.

general faqs
care act

General FAQs

What is a person centred assessment?

A person centred assessment is the needs assessment that your local council must conduct by involving you (and where appropriate your representative or advocate) in order to determine whether you need care and support to improve your quality of life and help you to live independently. The assessment is built around your needs and their impact on your well being. Its aim is to get a full picture of your needs and goals including changes you want to make in your life.

When is the needs assessment conducted?

The local authority has a legal duty under the Care Act to carry out an assessment to determine your eligibility for care and support. The assessment:

  • is carried out on any adult who appears to need care and support, regardless of their finances or whether the local authority thinks their needs will be eligible;
  • must be offered to any individual which the local authority thinks their needs will be eligible

Can I be supported during the assessment of my needs?

You can certainly get suitable support during your assessment. You may wish to get a friend or family member to be present when your needs are being assessed by the social worker or relevant assessor. The Care Act introduced new measures in respect to your local council’s responsibility to fulfil your right to advocacy support. It states that your local authority must arrange for you to have an independent advocate with you if you have difficulty comprehending the information, making decisions about your care and support and communicating and expressing your wishes and concerns.  

What is a self-assessment?

You may be offered a self- assessment form if you are able to take the lead in identifying your needs and outcomes. This grants you more control to state the full range of your care and support needs. The council will still be involved to support this process in order to make sure that you have identified all your needs adequately.

Can I refuse to be assessed?

You have the right to refuse an assessment or you have the right to request one if you change your mind in the future. If however, the council feels that a person is at risk of being abused or if the person lacks the mental capacity to refuse an assessment, the council will conduct an assessment in order to protect the person’s best interests.

Are carers assessed?

Under the Care Act, carers are legally entitled to be assessed regardless of the level of care they are providing to the person they care for. From 1st April 2015, the carer must be offered a free carer’s assessment wherever a carer appears to need support regardless of whether the person they care for has eligible needs and irrespective of their financial situation.

Can I still be assessed even though I am currently self-funding my own care?

Yes, you are entitled to be assessed, thanks to the Care Act, by your local council to determine the sort of help you may need to even if the council don’t provide it to you. The council will support you to identify the help you require and to plan how to get it. The council will also give you the proper free information and advice on how to deal with your needs.

How do councils determine my eligibility for social care funding?

The assessor will determine your eligibility for care and support based on the new national eligibility criteria stated in the Care Act. You will qualify for support if

  • your need for support is because of a physical, mental, cognitive or learning disability, impairment or illness
  • you are unable to achieve at least two of the care outcomes outlined in the regulation of the Care Act, such as getting dressed, keeping your home safe for you to live in, accessing local services in the community, maintaining nutrition, carrying out caring responsibilities
  • your inability to achieve those outcomes have any significant impact on your wellbeing.

Do local authorities have the right to set specific figures for normal disability-related costs?

A number of local authorities set their own lists of normal disability-related expenditure (DRE) that vary from one authority to another in order to avoid intrusive questions. This list is not always comprehensive. You should state all your disability-related expenditure on the financial assessment form as local authorities should look at each case on its merits. The local authority should assess the amount of your DRE before asking you to pay the charge for services.

Is the council directly responsible to assess me if my needs are related to social needs?

From 1 April 2015, the Care Act sets out new rules in relation to the council’s duties. Under the Care Act, the councils can request from other care providers to take on some of their legal duties for them. Your local authority can request other support organizations to carry out some of their duties by requesting them to conduct the needs assessment on their behalf, however the ultimate responsibility for the assessment process rests upon your local authority.

Which disability-related benefits are local authorities allowed to take into account as income when conducting a financial assessment to determine how much I should pay towards the cost of my care needs?

The local authority may take into account your disability-related benefits as income such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) care component, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) daily living component, Attendance Allowance (AA), and Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance. If these disability-related benefits are taken into account, then the local authority should assess your ‘disability-related expenditure’ (DRE) which includes the above-average costs necessary for your care and support.

Are my local council allowed to take my DLA/PIP into account when carrying out a financial assessment on my income to see how much I can contribute towards my care package/direct payments funded by social services?

When Social services assess your level of contribution to your care package/directs payments, they disregard the mobility component of the DLA/enhanced mobility component of PIP but take into account the care component of DLA/daily living component of PIP. By law, the local authority must disregard the mobility component for charges if you are in receipt of disability living allowance/Personal Independence Payment.

Although DLA/PIP is not means tested, the care component is incorporated (as well as some other social security benefits such as severe disability premium) as income in the calculation of the financial assessment in order to determine how much money you need to pay as a contribution towards your care package.

If you get an amount for night time needs included in your care component of DLA and if social services do not provide night time care to you, then you should be allowed to keep this amount of night time of your DLA. Hence, your local authority is not allowed to count an award for night needs where they are only providing day time care (and vice versa). The personal independence payment (PIP) is assessed differently and does not divide components into day and night time care requirements. If your award for PIP is based on, for instance, both day and night care needs, you should request that not all of your daily living component is taken into account if the social services only provide you with day care help.

If you are not getting social security benefits other than PIP/DLA, then request from the council to assist you to get access to a welfare benefits officer or get in touch with your local Citizen Advice Bureau.

Please read our free factsheet to find out what benefits you are entitled to if you click on the below link:


I receive care and support from the local authority but not my spouse. Will my local authority assess both of us as couple for the cost of care?

Currently, under the existing legislation, your local authority will only assess your resources as the cared for person. The local authority should not take into account assets owned by another person. If you hold a joint asset with your spouse, then the starting assumption is that each one of you holds an equal share and only your share should be taken into account in the assessment determining how much you can reasonably afford to pay towards the cost of your care and support in order to recover from you the cost to your local authority of arranging your care. You will not be charged more than the actual cost to your local authority in meeting your needs.

Can I still receive care and support from my local authority even if I have more than £23,250 in savings?

Where you have more than in capital, your local authority may not contribute towards the cost of your care and support. However, the figure of £23,250 is simply a minimum for the upper limit, the local authority has discretion to set its own higher capital limit provided it is not lower than £23,250. Local authorities can be more generous if they want.

Do I need to sell my home to pay my care home fees once I enter into care home?

You don’t have to sell your property during your lifetime as you can defer paying care home costs. You should be given the options to request a deferred payment if:

  • it has been determined in your assessment that your needs are best met once you move in to a care home
  • if you have less than £23,250 in savings (apart from the value of your home)
  • there are no dependent relatives living in your home

From which date can my local authority start charging me for services?

Your local authority can start charging you from the time when it incurs costs when contracting for your care. As per the Care Act, your local authority will determine how much you can afford to pay for your care and support via a financial assessment prior to collecting any contribution for you. Your local authority has powers to charge you for providing your care in order to cover the costs it incurs. Local authorities are advised not to delay in carrying out the financial assessment to avoid you being faced with substantial and unexpected bills ending up with large arrears.

What happens if you don’t qualify for care and support?

If the outcome of the assessment shows that you are not eligible for care and support, the council must still provide you with relevant information and advice to get help. The council would be able to signpost you to other local organisations who can assist you in maintaining your wellbeing.

Can I still receive support if I don’t qualify for it?

You should be given a written explanation of the reason why you don’t quality for support and how your council reached that decision. If you don’t quality for support from your local council, you are still entitled to be offered personalised information and advice on the different options of support you could receive to prevent your needs to get worse in the future and where you can get any support you require that is below the national eligibility threshold.

Care Act

What is the Care Act?

The Care Act is a new statutory law that replaces all different laws regarding care and support. The Care Act is about care and support for adults in England only as there are separate laws in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some parts of the Care Act came into action from April 2015  while the major reforms to the way social care is funded including the ‘care cap’ and ‘care account’, which were originally planned for April 2016, will take effect in 2020. The Care Act is considered the base upon which social care will develop over the next few decades.

What are the most recent changes in the Care Act?

There have been few changes made recently to the Care Act Statutory Guidance in a number of chapters. See the following link for further information:


What are the key themes of the Care Act?

There are major changes in the new law as it sets out the responsibilities which local authorities in England have to adhere to. The regulations of the Act:

  • Promote the principle of wellbeing which councils have taken on in order to give you greater independence and control to choose the type of care and support you get so that you live your life the way you want to. The councils ensure that your personal dignity is maintained and you are protected from neglect and abuse
  • Emphasize the councils’ responsibility to provide information and advice to all of its residents and signpost them to independent local organisations when required
  • Give people the right to access advocacy support in relation to their care needs
  • Outline the responsibility of local authorities to undertake an assessment for any adult, including carer, who appears to have any level of needs for care and support
  • Bring in new legal rights for carers to have their needs assessed in order to access relevant services
  • Enshrine a national eligibility criteria that sets the same rules about who can receive care and support all over England
  • Require councils to involve the individual in the care planning process to identify outcomes and innovative forms of care and support as well as ensure that plans are kept under review to allow individuals to achieve their aspirations
  • Improve integration in that councils will work more with health services and other organizations to provide the support that individuals require
  • Set a lifetime cap on care costs which is going to be implemented on 2020 introducing a care cap that limits the amount you pay for your care in your lifetime
  • Allow people to have a legal right to ask for deferred payments from their councils in order to defer selling their home to pay their care home fees until after their death

What does the ‘care cap’ mean?

The Care Act introduces a cap on how much people with social care needs will have to pay towards their own care and support in their lifetime. Once their care needs reach a certain level where they would qualify for support from the council, the amount of money required to meet those needs should be tallied up in a ‘care account’ onwards. When this account reaches a certain limit, the local authority will take over paying all the care and support costs with the exclusion of daily living costs. Costs such as food is not counted towards the care cap.

What is the figure of the care cap?

Currently if you have savings above £23,250, you are expected to pay for all of your care and support needs. However, in April 2020, this figure will change to £27,000. The ‘care cap’ will be £72,000 in 2020, this is the limit on how much people will pay towards meeting their eligible support needs in their lifetime. The cap will go up in line with inflation every year. It only applies to your eligible care needs. 

What is the eligibility criteria by which local authorities rely upon to determine my eligibility for social care support?

In order to determine your eligibility for state funding, the local authorities need to look at:

  • Whether your needs arise from a physical, mental, cognitive, sensory or learning disability, impairment or illness
  • As a result, are you unable to achieve two or more of the outcomes specified in the Care Act regulations
  • As a consequence, is there likely to be a significant impact on your wellbeing

What is a personal budget?

Personal budget is a statement determining how much money is available to meet your eligible needs as part of your care and support plan, or support plan (applicable to carers). It is important that you are told what your personal budget is. Your right to a personal budget is now enshrined for the first time in the Care Act 2014 (that came into force since April 2015). The Act makes it obligatory for everyone who receives adult social care to also get personal budgets.  This is your legal right from the council as of 1st April 2015 regardless of who is paying the amount needed for your personal budget.

How will personal budget make a difference to my life?

Personal budget improves outcomes and deliver better value for money as it allows you to make informed decisions about your needs will be best met. A personal budget gives you greater independence, choice and control because you will be able to choose how to do things the way you want, how you wish to be supported and the type of control you have over your support and who is involved.

Who pay my personal budget?

It may be the local authority, yourself or a combination of both. You will be told how much your council will pay, how much you will pay (if applicable) and how this is calculated. This is decided when you have a financial assessment that looks at your financial circumstances and then determines who pays your personal budget. Your local authority will assess you financially in line with the rules set in the Care Act. This financial assessment is a means of deciding how much you can afford to contribute towards the costs of your care and support.

Why does my local authority carry out a financial assessment on me?

The Care Act sets out a transparent and clearer approach to charging and financial assessment. Following the care needs assessment and your eligibility, the council conducts a financial assessment. The financial assessment is crucial to determine how much you can afford to pay towards the costs of your care. It assesses your income and any assets you hold as well as your disability related expenditure (DRE). You must be left with an amount of money to meet your living costs.

How will personal budgets be paid?

You could receive your personal budgets in different ways. You can take personal budgets in the form of a direct payment whereby you would receive cash paid into a separate bank account to arrange for your own support and pay for services in lieu of services directly commissioned by your local authority. You could also receive your personal budgets as a council-managed account which means that the council will manage your budget on your behalf and arrange services for you.

Alternatively, you may wish to get your personal budget through third party, often called an Individual Service Fund (ISF), a local organization would be paid by the council to provide support services for you and takes care of your needs. You can choose to have a mixture of these different ways.

In April 2020, those who have eligible needs but do not qualify for financial assistance from the council might be able to get an independent personal budget that will enable those individuals to qualify for state funding when their accrued care and support costs reach the ‘Care Cap’ and set out what the local authority would spend on meeting their eligible needs. 

Will my local council explain to me how I will manage my support with direct payments?

Local authorities have a responsibility to provide you with relevant information on direct payments, explain to you what they are and the choices you have in utilizing them, how direct payments operate in terms of your responsibilities as an employer, how to manage your direct payment , and where to go for further information and advice.

What is a support plan?

Your support plan is agreed with the council, it outlines how you are going to spend your personal budget as well as your agreed outcomes that you wish to achieve. The support plan helps you make the changes you want in your life for the better.

What are the main options I have to use my direct payments to obtain the support I need?

You can use your direct payment to purchase services and receive the support you need from the following service providers for instance:

  • You employ a personal assistant to assist you
  • You buy services from agencies or organizations that provide and support services
  • Accessing mainstream services, engaging in training, recreational facilities and local community activities such as adult education services, sports and leisure

Is there anything I cannot spend my budget on?

There are few restrictions on what you can spend your budget on. You cannot use your budget on:

  • Purchasing equipment/aids that are funded by NHS
  • Paying for utility bills or day-to-day living costs, alcohol, or cigarettes
  • Paying for items that are deemed inappropriate use of public money for instance gambling or illegal activities 

What do I need to know when taking on Personal Assistants (PA’s)?

If you decide to take on PA’s, you have certain obligations you need to adhere to in line with the employment legislation as you will be considered their direct employer.

Please read our factsheet F2 on getting PA’s for detailed information. 

What if I am already receiving a social care service prior to the new national eligibility criteria of the Care Act?

You will be re-assessed by the council to determine whether your needs still meet the new eligibility criteria. If your needs meet this eligibility, then you will continue receiving this support. However, if you do not meet the criteria, then the local council will provide you with the relevant advice and information to find alternative provision.

Will my needs be re-assessed in 2020?

From April 2020, your local authority will re-assess your social care needs even if you pay for your own care in order to calculate the amount your care and support costs to meet your eligible needs. This is because this amount is tallied up in your ‘care account’ and counts towards the ‘care cap’.

Who can assist me if I need help to participate in care and support planning for myself?

If you need assistance to make decisions and be involved in the planning process, you could request the council to put you in touch with an independent advocate to facilitate your involvement and communicate your thoughts and wishes. Under the Care Act, your local authority has a legal duty to provide or signpost you to advocacy services in cases where you have substantial difficulty in making informed decisions and understanding the assessment and planning process.

Will I keep my care package support if I move to a new area?

As per the Care Act legislation, there is a legal duty upon councils to ensure you get relevant support when you move to ensure continuity of care and support. Your current council and the council in your new area have both a legal duty to work together to ensure that you still receive the support you require when you move, hence there is no disruption to your care package. You will need to inform the council that you intend to move. Before you move, the new council would carry out a needs assessment on you to enable them to understand how you wish your needs to be met.

What is a Deferred Payments Scheme?

The deferred payments scheme is intended to assist you if you have been assessed as having to pay the full cost of your care home fees. Few local councils operated this scheme prior to the Care Act but is now replaced by the news rules from April 2015. The Care Act has brought in a national ‘Deferred Payment scheme’ that is available to everyone from April 2015. You should not be forced to sell your home during your lifetime to pay for your residential care fees. By entering into a deferred payment agreement with the council, you delay or ‘defer’, but not write off, paying the cost of your care until a later date. This offers you more flexibility and choice as to when you decide to sell your home.

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