The Government says a carer is someone who ‘spends a significant proportion of their life providing unpaid support to family or friends’. This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems.
Who is a carer?
A relative, partner or friend of a service user who offers practical and emotional support to that person but is not paid in anyway for doing so (although some carers may receive a Social Security benefit called Invalid Carer’s Allowance). A carer can be a relative including son or daughter, friend or neighbour and may or may not live with the person that they care for.
What is an Assessment of Carers’ Needs?
A person who provides regular and substantial care to a person with a mental health problem is entitled to an assessment of their needs as a carer. This is sometimes called a Carers’ Assessment (or more properly an Assessment of Carers’ Needs). Addressing the needs of carers is one of the key standards that the Trust must meet. Carers are entitled to an assessment of their needs even if the person they are caring for is reluctant to receive services.
What does an Assessment of Carers’ Needs mean?
This means that a member of staff will sit down and talk with you about the caring role that you carry out, the impact that this has on your life, any difficulties that you have now or might have in the future in providing care for your relative or friend.
It is an opportunity for you to talk in detail about your role as a carer and any problems that you might have, including the help that you friend or relatives receives from the Trust.
What an Assessment of Carers’ Need does not mean?
An assessment is not a judgement or test on your role as carer. An assessment is not linked in any way with Social Security and will not result in you losing any benefits. An assessment is not designed to lead to reduction in the help that your relative or friend receives from the Trust.
How will an assessment be undertaken?
An Assessment of Carers’ Needs will be carried out by the member of staff who is the Care Co-ordinator for the person that you provide care for. Occasionally another member of the care team will carry it out, but this should be someone that you already know. If you do not want the Care Co-ordinator to carry out this assessment then you can ask for someone else to do it. The person who carries out the assessment will meet with you separately from the person that you care for. They will ask you a series of questions about your caring role and complete an Assessment of Carers’ Needs form. The outcome of an assessment will be a care plan, outlining how the mental health services can support you in your caring role, including what to do in times of crisis. Where possible, the care plan will be linked with the care plan of the person you care for.
Do carers have to accept an assessment?
The Trust’s mental health services have a duty to offer carers of their service users an assessment on an annual basis but you do not have to accept one if you would prefer not to. Carers will not lose any help or be penalised in any way for saying that you don’t want an assessment. Carers’ needs should be addressed.
If you do not wish to complete the full Assessment of Carers’ Needs form but want to have a general discussion about your needs as a carer, then this should also be available to you.
How will an assessment benefit carers?
National and local surveys of carers have shown that what most carers want is:
- Recognition of the caring that they provide;
- Better information about the problems of the person they care for and advice about coping with the illness;
- Being listened to by services and having their needs supported;
- Being involved in decision making about the person that they care for, and the services they receive;
- More opportunities to take a break from their caring role.
A Carers’ Assessment of Need and care plan can help to support carers better. It may also lead to some changes in the way services work with the person that you care for, by taking into account your needs as a carer. It can also result in carers being referred to, or given information about, some of the other services that exist to provide support to carers.
It is easier to provide appropriate care if service users and carers are willing for information about them to be shared with each other. However, for understandable reasons, this is not always the case. An Assessment of Carers’ Needs and care plan will be recorded in the file of the person you care for, but it is kept in a specific section and will not be shown to the person you care for without your permission.
The person you care for may not wish information about them to be disclosed to you. This cannot prevent you having an assessment of your needs but may limit the information that staff can share with you. If you do have any concerns regarding issues of confidentiality, then please discuss these with the person undertaking the assessment.
This information is also available in our leaflet: Are you a carer?
Support for carers
The Supporting Carers Better Network (now part of Attend) was set up for all people supporting carers in mental health in England. It aims to identify and share good practice and connect people.