Community care and aftercare

Answers some of the common questions about community care and aftercare and explains the options available.

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What is community care?

The phrase 'community care' is used to describe the various services available to help people manage their physical and mental health problems in the community e.g. nursing or social work support, home help, day centres, counselling, supported accommodation.

Community care is usually arranged by social services departments or Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs). The system for delivering community care services to most adults is called 'care planning'.

What is the Care Programme Approach (CPA)?

The Care Programme Approach is a process of care planning used if you have significant mental health needs. It involves mental health professionals assessing your needs and drawing up a care plan, which should be reviewed regularly.

For more information on the CPA, see our Leaving Hospital section. 

How do I get assessed for community care services?

Any person who appears to need community care services – including anyone with known mental or physical health problems – has the right to have their needs assessed by their local authority, as do their carers.

The first step is a community care assessment, which is usually arranged by the local authority's social services department.

  • The assessment should take place within a reasonable time of social services finding out that you may need community care services.
  • You do not have to make a formal application for an assessment.
  • If social services know that you may need services, they should offer to assess you without you having to ask – they have a legal duty.
  • If your GP or CMHT believes that your mental health needs are not serious enough to require the Care Programme Approach, you may still have a right to an assessment of your community care needs.

If you are having problems getting an assessment, you can complain and should get legal advice. For more information see Complaining about health and social care. Our Useful contacts page has information on getting legal advice. An advocate may also be able to help you with this. See Advocacy for more information.

For further information on care planning and discharge from hospital, see our Leaving hospital section.

Can they take away my community care services?

Community care services can be stopped or reduced if you no longer need them; however, your needs must be assessed again before this can happen. If you think you still need the same services or same level of services, you should seek legal advice.


This information was published in March 2017. We will revise it in 2019.


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