Guide for accessing support via the social care system

ECL understand navigating the social care process to gain the right support can be daunting. We have produced this helpful jargon free guide to support you every step of the way.

Back to topIntroduction to guide

Reaching out for support for yourself or a loved one is not easy and often comes at a time when you already feel overwhelmed. If you are seeking help with funding and are not sure where to start, who to speak to, what to expect, or even trying to decipher social care terminology, we are here to help you through the process.

This guide is appropriate for anyone wanting to know how to get support via the social care system, including:

Learning disabilities and autism

Adults with a learning disability who would like support to get out and about in their local community, become a part of their local community, learn new skills, and make new friendships. Including young adults transitioning from education to adult social care provision.

Employment opportunities

Adults with a learning disability who would like to be supported into employment opportunities.

Older people

Older people wanting to maintain their independence and a chance to socialise, whilst giving families and carers time for respite.

Short-term care after a spell of ill health

Those that have had an illness or injury and need short term support to re-gain their independence at home.

Sight and hearing impairment

People with sight and/or hearing loss wanting to maintain independence and dignity in every aspect of daily life.

Mobility equipment

Individuals requiring specialist equipment to support mobility and safety in their home.

About ECL

ECL provides care and support services in Essex, Havering and West Sussex, supporting thousands of people to live safely and independently within their own homes and local communities.

We pride ourselves on providing person-centred-care and that means putting you at the heart of the process right from the very beginning, through to planning and delivering personalised support to help you meet your goals.

We have a great deal of knowledge and experience and are delighted to share it with you, to help you through your journey.

If you would like to talk to us, we are here ready to help, please get in touch.

Back to topDo you have a health condition or disability that means you need support with your daily routine?

If you need practical help with doing everyday tasks such as maintaining personal hygiene, keeping the house clean, gaining work, developing friendships, going to the shops or using public transport, because of your illness, disability or age, then the Adult Social Care service can help you and your carers, or point you in the right direction of where to find help.

If you need help with everyday tasks your local authority has a legal duty to carry out an assessment to find out what help you need. Adult Social Care may also provide short term support to help you get back to full fitness or mobility after a hospital stay or if you are recovering from a mental illness.

Back to topContact social services direct

Your local council and social services department can arrange an assessment of your needs. Visit to get contact details of your local council and social services team.

Alternatively, you can find the telephone number on your council tax bill, at your GP surgery or local library.

Back to topGP referral to social services

If you’re unsure about contacting social services, you can ask your doctor or district nurse for a referral.

Back to topHospital Social Worker

If you are in hospital and think you will need care and support when you leave, the hospital and social care staff will carry out a Care Needs Assessment to decide what help you may need at home.

Back to topSchool referral

If you have an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan) your school or college can help you to contact the Children and Young People with Disabilities team who will then help you transition into adult social care at the age of 18.


Back to topCare Needs Assessment

The Care Needs Assessment is the first step towards getting the help and support you need with your everyday life.

The aim of a care needs assessment is to work out how much help you need to enable you to live as independently as possible.

The Care Needs Assessment should be done by a social worker or someone who works for the local authority. Don’t be put off by the word ‘assessment’ it is not a test, just a straightforward way of working out your individual needs in terms of care and support, healthcare and housing

Hints and tips for your Care Needs Assessment

  • Be very clear about the support you need in your day-to-day life, for example, with washing, getting dressed, taking medication, using public transport, making friends and what your goals are.
  • Tell them about all the things that you would need help with if you did not get any support from your family.
  • If you are offered a telephone or on-line assessment and you feel this is not right for you, ask for a face-to -face assessment.
  • If you want help at the assessment, ask to involve your family or an independent person (known as an advocate) on your behalf.
  • If you are a carer, you can ask for help both for yourself and for the person you are looking after.
  • If someone requests the assessment on your behalf, they must get your permission. Some people may lack the ability (mental capacity) to give this consent. A mental capacity assessment (MCA) may take place to ensure the person has the capacity to make safe decisions.
  • At the point of assessment, your finances or the potential cost of services are irrelevant. This means the local authority should only look at what you need, not how much money you have or how much your services may end up costing.


Back to topEligible for social care?

Once the local authority has carried out your assessment, it will need to determine which of your needs are “eligible” for support. The local authority will refer to its “eligibility criteria” under the Care Act.

If your needs are “eligible” for support under the criteria above, the local authority has a legal duty to meet those needs. However, that does not mean they will fund the support- this will be assessed during the Financial Assessment.

Eligibility criteria >


Back to topNot eligible for social care

I meant Yes >

If your local authority decides that you do not have eligible needs for care and support, you should be notified of this in writing and reasons should be provided. You should be provided with information on other organisations in your local area that you can approach for support.

You can contact ECL, our friendly team will advise and discuss your self-funding options with you, call 0333 013 5438.

Back to topEligible for social care: Care and support plan and financial assessment

If your local authority determines that you do have eligible needs for support, then you should be involved in the care planning process in order for you to make important decisions about the type of support that you would like to receive

At around the same time, a trained benefits adviser will assess your finances and work out whether you should pay towards the cost of your care and support.

Care and support plan

Your care plan is personalised to you, and what is in it will depend on your needs, you may be offered anything from information services, community support, support to gain employment, day centre access, equipment to enhance your independence, home care or even residential care.

Your care plan should cover

  • the goals you want to aim for and the outcomes you need to achieve
  • what your assessed needs are
  • information and advice on how to prevent, reduce or delay your future needs for social care
  • your personal budget figure - the amount of money it costs to arrange your care and support

Individualised care plans will aim to support you in the following ways

  • Encourage and support you to live independently
  • To have as much control over your own life as possible
  • To participate in society as an equal
  • To have access to employment and family life
  • Ensure you have the best possible quality of life
  • Ensure your dignity and self-respect


Financial assessment

Social care is not free for everyone and how much you contribute to your care will depend on your financial situation.

A trained benefits adviser will look at:

  • your regular income – such as pensions, benefits, or earnings. Only your income can be assessed not that of your family members.
  • your capital – such as cash savings and investments, land and property, and business assets. If you have jointly held savings with a spouse or partner, the total value is divided equally between joint owners.

The local authority must also assess what your living costs are, such as rent and bills as well as all “disability related expenditure”. Disability related expenditure is any reasonable item or adjustment needed for a disabled person to live independently.

Once the local authority has worked out your income and your living costs, it has an amount of money 'left over', from which you could be asked to pay a contribution for your care and support.

Financial assessment >


Back to topChoose provider(s)

You may have some care providers in mind, to decide which ones will best meet your needs you should meet them face to face and visit any facilities (if appropriate).

Find out whether they practise person-centred care, meet the staff, ask how they will support you and find out what they charge and what will be included.

Full checklist for choosing a care provider >

Back to topSelect funding option to pay for preferred care provider

If your local council agrees to fund some, or all your care services, you will be offered the choice of:

  • The local authority arranging and paying for the care services required on your behalf
  • Receiving direct payments (which may sometimes be referred to as a Personal Budget) from the local authority then arranging and paying for care services yourself (or someone is appointed to receive and manage the payments on your behalf).

Direct payments offer more choice and flexibility over your care provision but do come with some responsibilities.

Direct payments >


NHS continuing healthcare

If you have a disability or complex medical problem, you might qualify for free NHS continuing healthcare (CHC). This is a package of healthcare that’s arranged and funded by the NHS.

The NHS website can give you more information about this.


Back to topReceive support from chosen provider and review regularly

You will now be able to start receiving on-going support from your chosen care provider.

The service should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is meeting the needs identified in your care plan.

If your local council has arranged support for you, they must review your care plan within a reasonable time frame (usually within three months). After this, your care plan should be reviewed at least once a year or more often if needed.

If at any time you feel that either the service you are receiving or your care plan doesn’t support your needs, contact the adult social services department of your council to ask for a review.