Social care

Social care aims to provide personal and practical support to help people live their lives and to maintain independence and control over how they live. Social care may be provided in your own home, in a residential care home or by organising respite breaks for a few hours or days.

You can read more about the range of social care services available on the NHS Choices website.

Your rights and choices are set out in the government's Adult social care choice framework.

Care and support at home

You may be able to obtain support and care in your own home through your local council. Assistance can improve your quality of life and allow you to continue living in your own home. Social care may include help with:

  • washing, dressing, preparing meals, eating
  • cleaning, shopping
  • going to the toilet
  • equipment and adaptations, such as a stair lift or a downstairs bathroom
  • getting to a day centre to give you, or the person who cares for you, a break
  • day care for your child if you are disabled

To access care, you need to contact the adult social services department of your local council (usually the county council or equivalent authority) and ask them to carry out an assessment of your needs. In Northern Ireland, you contact your local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust. A relative, friend or carer can ask on your behalf.

A social worker will discuss your situation with you and what you'd like to achieve. The council must carry out an assessment if you appear to need care even if you will not be eligible for funding from them.

How you pay for social care is slightly different in the four nations of the UK. A financial appraisal is also carried out. If you have savings and capital above a certain level, you will be expected to contribute to some or all of the costs of your care. The level of savings is different in the four nations of the UK. There are links to more on this below.

If you're eligible for support from the council, you'll be given a care plan outlining the help you can receive. You will also have the option of arranging and being given control of the payments for your own care. This is known as direct payments or a personal budget.

If you do not qualify for local authority support, you can arrange your own care. This may allow you more choice and control over the arrangements. You could use the results of your needs assessment to decide what amount and type of care would suit you best.

Residential care

For some people, moving to a setting where care is provided may be more appropriate.  Depending on the location and availability, different types of care may be available.

Extra care housing schemes or warden-controlled sheltered accommodation offer an increased level of care and support but retain a level of independence. They may be provided by the local council, through housing associations or privately.

Some people's needs are best met by a residential home. The majority of residential care accommodation is for older people, but there are homes that cater to the needs of younger people with a disability. At some residential homes, nursing care is offered if you need it.

As for care at home, how much you will pay depends on your personal and financial circumstances.

Read more about care homes on the NHS website.

These charities provide care homes and other services for people below retirement age:

What can I do if there is a problem with my social care?

If you have concerns about the care you or a family member are receiving, you should first contact the agency who are providing it. The care home or home care agency should have a clear process for making complaints or for giving feedback.

Care homes and home care agencies are regularly inspected to make sure they comply with nationally agreed standards. The inspection agency websites include lists of registered services and the agency's reports about each service. They also explain how to raise a concern or make a complaint. 

If you're having problems getting the support that is right for you, you could consult an experienced adviser.

The Citizen's Advice website has information on social care and support:

Further information and support

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