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Explains your rights to social care, and how this differs from healthcare. Includes information on eligibility, needs assessments, financial assessments, and how local authorities may meet your needs.
If you need practical help and support because of your illness, disability or age, then social care services can help you. This help and support could be:
Social care services are provided by your local authority, though you may have to pay for it (see our page on financial assessments).
You're entitled to social care if:
Social care and support is provided by the social services department of your local authority – you may also know this as your 'council', 'local council' or 'county council'. You can find details of your local authority on the gov.uk website.
Local authorities might perform these services themselves, or they may commission private companies to provide them. Sometimes they will make direct payments so you can buy the services yourself.
Here are the steps for accessing social care:
Local authorities must provide you with accessible information and advice about care and support services in their area.
Information and advice should cover:
In Wales, the law says that local authorities should also help you access care and support.
Unlike healthcare provided by the NHS, most social care is not free at the point of delivery. You may be asked by your local authority to pay something towards the social care you receive, depending on your financial circumstances (see our page on financial assessments). There are exceptions to this, such as section 117 aftercare, which is always free.
The rules about how local authorities charge for services are fairly complicated. But the law says that you should only be asked to pay what you can afford.
If you're a carer, the local authority has a duty to assess and meet your needs for support (if your needs meet the eligibility criteria). See our page on carers' social care rights for more information.
This is the law which sets out the local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for care and support (adult social care), including carers who need support. It applies in England only.See our full list of legal terms.
This is the law that governs social care in Wales. It sets out the local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for care and support (child and adult social care), including carers who need support.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in February 2018. We will revise it in 2020.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.