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Health and social care rights

Explains your rights to health and social care for your mental health. Includes information on eligibility for social care and how local authorities may meet your needs.

When should a local authority meet my needs for care and support?

The local authority will have to meet your needs for care and support if:

  • Your needs meet the eligibility criteria
  • You're ordinarily resident in its area. This is a legal concept and means the place you've voluntarily chosen to settle
  • You have no fixed address, but you're present in its area (for example, if you're homeless and are currently staying in a particular local authority area)
  • You don't have a carer who is meeting your needs for care and support

If you have a carer who is able and willing to continue meeting your needs for care and support, the local authority is not required to do so.


  • Selena is homeless and is currently sofa-surfing with a friend. The local authority where she's staying has to meet her needs for care and support, as she is present in their area.
  • Leo has been assessed as having eligible needs for care and support. His mother is his full-time carer and says she's willing and able to continue to meet his needs. His local authority is not under a duty to meet Leo's needs as he has a carer who's doing so.

How can the local authority meet my needs?

The local authority can meet your needs for care and support in different ways. This includes providing you with:

  • Accommodation
  • Care and support in a home or in the community
  • Counselling and advocacy
  • Social work
  • Services, goods and facilities
  • Information and advice
  • Adaptations to your home
  • Occupational therapy

The local authority can meet your needs by:

  • Providing services itself
  • Arranging for someone else to provide service
  • Making direct payments

Can I choose which care home I go to?

If the local authority is going to meet your needs by placing you in a care home, you have the right to choose which one you go to, provided:

  • The local authority agrees that the care home will be able to meet your needs
  • There is space at the care home
  • The care home is not more expensive than alternative care homes that could also meet your needs

If you want to live somewhere more expensive than alternative care homes, the local authority might ask for a top-up fee to cover the additional cost of placing you there.

Usually, you will not be able to pay the top-up fee yourself and a relative or friend will need to pay it for you. If your care home is being paid for as part of your section 117 aftercare, you will be able to pay any top-up fee yourself.  

In England, your right to choose your accommodation also extends to supported living and shared lives accommodation.

What's a personal budget? (England only)

In England, but not in Wales, the local authority must set a 'personal budget' for you. This is a statement that sets out:

  • The cost of meeting your eligible needs
  • The amount that you must pay towards the costs of meeting your needs based on your financial assessment
  • The amount the local authority must pay towards meeting your needs

If you feel that your personal budget is not enough to meet your care and support needs, or if the local authority cuts it, you can challenge this. For details on how to do this, see our pages on complaining about health and social care.

What are direct payments?

If you want to arrange your own care and support, you can ask your local authority to make direct payments to cover the cost of the care and support that it would otherwise provide.

You must use your direct payments to meet the care and support needs set out in your care and support plan. Your local authority will monitor your direct payment arrangements and review them if necessary.

Advantages of direct payments

  • Puts you in control of how you commission your own care and support.
  • Gives you more choice, control and independence.
  • Reduces administrative costs and can make your personal budget go further.

Disadvantages of direct payments

  • You may find it a burden having to commission your own care and support.
  • You may have to employ people and comply with tax and employment law. This can be quite complicated. 

Who can get direct payments?

The local authority should make direct payments to meet your eligible needs if you request it, and it considers that:

  • You have capacity to request direct payments
  • You or a nominated person are capable of managing direct payments, either alone or with assistance that you have access to. A nominated person could be a family member or an organisation that specialises in administering direct payments
  • Direct payments to you or a nominated person is an appropriate way of meeting your needs

If you don't have capacity to request direct payments, an authorised person can request them on your behalf.

By law, certain people can't receive direct payments. For example, prisoners cannot receive direct payments to meet their eligible needs.

Can I get any support with direct payments?

Your local authority should publish information about:

  • What direct payments are
  • How to request one
  • How you can nominate a person to help you manage your direct payments
  • What responsibilities are involved in managing direct payments and being an employer
  • Details of local social care providers and how to make arrangements with them
  • Details of local organisations and local authority support which can help you manage your direct payments, as well as other responsibilities associated with them

In England, the website can help you find information about direct payments on your local authority's website. In Wales, you can find more general information about direct payments here

Are there any things I can't get as social care and support?

You cannot be given things which the law says should be provided under different legislation. For example:

  • The local authority can't meet your needs for care and support if you're subject to immigration control. This means that you’re someone who needs permission to enter or remain in the UK.
  • The local authority can't normally meet your needs for care and support by providing healthcare, unless that healthcare is secondary to a service that it provides. 
  • The local authority can't provide you with accommodation that it would usually supply under its housing duties. It can't use the social care legislation to give you a council house or flat.

What happens if I move to a different local authority area?

If you move to a different local authority area, the local authority you currently live in and the local authority you intend to move to must work together. They must do this to make sure that there's no interruption to your care and support.

Here's an outline of the process of transferring care and support responsibilities to a new local authority:

  • You may want to get information about available services in your future local authority. Your future local authority should have already made this information public. It should also be able to provide any extra information you request about what services it offers.
  • You should tell your current local authority that you want to move. In England, you may have to contact your future local authority as well. In Wales, your current local authority must inform your future one of your intentions.
  • Both local authorities should take joint responsibility for making sure that your care continues during your move.
  • Your current local authority should supply your future one with your most recent care and support plan. If your carer is moving with you, they should also supply any carer's support plan. They'll also need to supply your needs assessment and financial assessment. 
  • Your future local authority must then carry out a needs assessment and determine whether your needs are eligible.
  • Your future local authority must develop a care and support plan that includes arrangements for your move. They must share this plan with you.
  • If you haven’t had a needs assessment by the time of your move, your future local authority should continue to meet your needs under your existing care and support plan. They should do this until a new plan has been developed.

This information was published in February 2023. We will revise it in 2026. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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