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Health and social care rights

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.

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, or 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), and
  • 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, then 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 is 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 is 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 is 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.

What is 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 sort out 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 the local authority 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, and if necessary review, your direct payment arrangements.

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 find yourself, for example, having to employ people and comply with tax and employment law which is often not straightforward. (The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has produced this Disability Tax Guide, which has helpful information about this.)

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 then an authorised person can request them on your behalf.

Who can't get direct payments?

Certain people cannot, by law, receive direct payments. These include:

  • prisoners
  • people who are subject to court orders requiring treatment for drug or alcohol problems.

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 and other responsibilities associated with them.

The website can help you find information about direct payments on your local authority's website.

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.
  • The local authority can't meet your needs for care and support by providing healthcare, unless that healthcare is incidental to a service that it provides, and is the sort of service a local authority would normally be expected to provide.
  • 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, then the local authority you currently live in and the local authority you intend to move to must work together to make sure that there's no interruption to your care and support.

When you're thinking about moving, it's a good idea to try to find out information about what care and support services your future local authority offers. You can usually find this out on their website.

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

  • Tell the local authority that you want to move. Firstly, you should tell your current local authority that you intend to move. In England, you may have to contact your future local authority yourself. In Wales, your current local authority must inform your future one of your intentions.
  • Get information about available services. Your future local authority should then inform you about what services it offers.
  • Make sure your care continues during your move. Both local authorities should take joint responsibility for making sure your care continues during your move.
  • Supply the new local authority with your care and support plan. Your current local authority should supply your future one with your most recent care and support plan (and any carer's support plan if your carer is moving with you), needs assessment and financial assessment.
  • Get a needs assessment. Your future local authority must carry out a needs assessment and determine whether your needs are eligible.
  • Develop a care and support plan. Your future local authority must develop a care and support plan which includes arrangements for your move. They must share this plan with you.
  • Continuing to meet your needs until your new care and support plan is developed. If a needs assessment has not been carried out by the time of your move, your future local authority should continue to meet your needs under your existing care and support plan until a new one has been developed.

This information was published in February 2018.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

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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