Better Carers Assessments: a gateway to support

Carers Assessments

I’m a person who has hobby horses. No, I don’t mean the toys, but issues that I keep coming back to because, in my mind, they are just so obviously important. And at the moment, one of my hobby horses is carers assessments.

Carers assessments in some places have a bit of a bad rep. Many carers say they don’t know if they’ve had one, or if they have, they feel nothing really came of it.

There are lots of issues here. The term  “assessment” is problematic. Some carers worry about this and think they’re being tested and might be told they’re not good enough. Others feel it’s just a tick box process and their needs are not being taken seriously.

However, what I feel passionately about, is that if a carers assessment is done well it has the potential to be a really positive experience. For some carers it may result in the provision of a service or a personal budget, but for others it might not. It should nevertheless result in the identification of what support and resources could help, and the chance to talk through what is working and what is not. Sometimes this might be the only time a carer might feel anyone is listening to them and their needs, so it’s important this is done properly.

The draft Care and Support Bill opens up the way for more carers in England to have access to a carers assessment, and so it’s an opportune time to be thinking about how we can ensure theyare done well.

Carers Trust has been working with Skills for Care to find out more about what carers think on this matter. We carried out three focus groups, and the keys things carers said were needed were:

  • An assessment where there is a clear outcome. Carers welcomed receiving a note of the discussion and a clear menu of support options, whether these are general or universal sources of advice and support, and/or more in-depth support. A creative outcomes-focused approach, exploring a broad range of ways in which needs are met, is valued. This feedback should be received quickly after the assessment.
  • A positive, courageous and exploratory approach. Carers value an approach which looks beyond the day to day coping mechanisms  to tease out problems, whilst recognising the skills and expertise of the carer. Most carers said they had no trouble taking about what they can do but have difficulty expressing where they are struggling or need help. Sensitivity and courage is needed on the part of professions to talk through issues such as whether the person is willing or able to continue caring and putting together emergency plans.
  • Clear communication. Clear communication is needed before, during and after the assessment so that carers feel they are clear about the purpose of the assessment, the choices available to them and the whole process. They also need to feel like they are treated as experts who bring a great deal of skill and knowledge to the caring role, and are able to make their own decisions.

You can see our report here. Perhaps none of this is a surprise, but it is a concern that carers often felt these things weren’t happening.

An assessment is the gateway to wider support, and can be the foundation of an ongoing dialogue so that carers know that they are valued as an individual, not just as a provider of care, and there is support there if they need it.

How do we make sure this happens? Well that’s the next project. We’ll keep you posted.


April 24, 2013 - Posted by | Benefits, Uncategorized | , ,


  1. What is nearly always lacking is Carers being told their rights, including the right not to be a carer. My mantra for carers is “Willingness and Ability” which should be considered in every aspect of their caring role. The other point to make is that when and where the Carers Assessment is carried out can make a big difference to carers’ engagement with the process. Ideally it should be at a time separate from any Needs Assessment for the cared for; and without the cared for present, so that the carer can speak freely.

    Comment by Jill Pay | April 24, 2013 | Reply

  2. I had a carer’s assessment, seems like 100yrs ago. Social worker agreed I needed respite and offered some care homes for my husband but his needs are not quite the usual or clear cut. He didn’t want to go and so that was it – no suggestions as to alternatives or more creative solutions, it was that or nothing! I still haven’t had a break in 2yrs.

    Comment by Bryony McGinty | May 8, 2013 | Reply

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