The law surrounding community care assessments is notoriously difficult to grasp as it involves a spider’s web of diffuse Acts of Parliament and guidance, involving both local authorities and the NHS, all linked together in a somewhat translucent whole. Despite these difficulties, we must not forget that these assessments are designed to identify a genuine need and the support designed to meet that need. In this article I will be focusing mainly on adults but the principals identified generally apply to assessing the needs of children.
Perhaps the best way to understand the process is to run through it with a hypothetical example involving Teresa Smith an unemployed, intelligent 25 year old single woman with Asperger’s syndrome who has some history of mental health difficulties. Teresa finds organising her life vey difficult and stressful and she is socially isolated.
Teresa is likely to be classified as a disabled person who may well qualify for support services, albeit the definition of disability used can be somewhat outdated. Given Teresa has a disability she will be entitled to a community care assessment. It is worth pointing out that disabilities include both physical and mental disabilities and also that people like Teresa who have an IQ over 70 are not automatically excluded.
There is no need to request a community care assessment as the relevant bodies need to be proactive; in practice it is often necessary to write to the local authority to request an assessment. In Teresa’s case the request letter may look like this:
Dear Director of Social Services
Re: Ms Teresa Smith [insert DOB and address]
I am the [name relationship with Teresa] for Teresa Smith of who has asked me to assist her in obtaining an assessment of her need for community care services pursuant to s 47 National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.
Ms Smith has a diagnosis of [name disability/ies] which are associated with [list impairments]. It is reasonable to assume that Ms Smith may need [list support services that may be needed].
I would request that a social worker contact Ms Smith in the near future to carry out the said assessment.
Finally, I would be grateful if you acknowledged receipt of this letter.
Teresa will be assessed in accordance with an eligibility framework that will determine which of her needs are critical, substantial, moderate or low. Though resources are a factor when framing eligibility criteria they cannot be used as the only factor to consider when allocating resources to meet a person needs. Furthermore it is almost certain she will be offered direct payments in order that she can arrange her own provision.
For adults like Teresa, it is often advisable that they obtain support from someone who can advocate on their behalf. In many cases, adults will qualify for publically funded support. Given this Teresa should think about contacting a local firm of solicitors who specialise in community care to see if such support is available.