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Care Act factsheet 4: Legal duties for a carers assessment

Published: April 2024

This factsheet describes how the Care Act (2014) and its supporting regulations and guidance sets out a clear legal framework for how local authorities support an individual who has been identified as a carer.

Who is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to another person. This is not the same as someone who provides care professionally, or through a voluntary organisation.

What is a carer’s assessment

A carer’s assessment is a critical intervention which supports a local authority to determine whether a carer has a need for support to help them live their day-to-day life and to continue providing support to an adult.

Any carer who is ‘ordinarily resident’ can request an assessment and the local authority has a duty to undertake the assessment. A person is ordinarily resident if they are living in the area lawfully, voluntarily and for settled purposes, whether for a long or short duration.

The carer may live in a different local authority area than the adult to whom they provide support. Ordinarily it will be the local authority within which the carer is resident that will be responsible for the carers assessment. However, if a combined assessment with the adult and the carer is more appropriate, it is likely that the local authority within which the adult ordinarily resides will complete the assessment on behalf of the local authority within which the carer resides. 


  • The Care Act (the Act) sets out various key points at which the local authority has a duty, with consent, to intervene in a person’s life where social care needs appear to be having an impact on the individual’s ability to achieve outcomes independently.

The core interventions are:

Carers have the same rights to access this support, alongside the general duties of the Act which are applicable to all adults who are ‘ordinarily resident’ within the local authority area and includes:

A person is ordinarily resident if they are living in the area lawfully, voluntarily and for settled purposes, whether for a long or short duration.

A carer has the right to request an assessment under Section 10 of the Act and the local authority has the duty to undertake an appropriate and proportionate assessment if there is an appearance of need.

A referral for a carers assessment can be made by a third-party and if the carer has the capacity to consent to the assessment, the local authority has the duty to undertake one. If there is reasonable belief that a carer lacks the capacity to make this decision, the Mental Capacity Act (2005) must be followed and the decision regarding the assessment of need must be done as a best interest decision.

What happens now?

The purpose of the carer’s assessment is to identify with the carer their personal outcomes, existing needs, and impact of the caring role on their individual wellbeing. A carer’s assessment must also seek to establish if the caring role is sustainable and if the carer is willing and able to care for the adult needing care. 

It is a critical interaction during which the local authority should support the carer to take a lead in the process of exploring current circumstances, what is important to them and for them now and what can be anticipated for future needs, utilising the frameworks of strengths-based and person-centred practice. It is important to recognise that a carer’s needs can fluctuate and so the assessment should not be based just on needs that are present at the time of the assessment but take an appropriate and proportionate approach to considering how they can change.

It can be a therapeutic intervention as the carer is supported to understand their situation, their priorities and personal outcomes and the needs they appear to have, working together to reduce or delay the onset of greater needs and enabling the carer to access the right support when they require it.

The Act states that the carer is best placed to judge what is important to their wellbeing.  The local authority can support the development of understanding this, but during the assessment it cannot determine how individual wellbeing is impacted by the assessed needs. 

Section 10 of the Act provides the framework for the assessment of a carer. Every carer will not be assessed in the same way and the intervention must be appropriate and proportionate to the presenting needs and individual circumstances. The approach to an assessment must be person-centred, supporting the carer to take a lead in the conversation which can be encouraged by the practitioner utilising strengths-based questions

The carer must have as much choice and control over the nature and level of their involvement as possible. Some carers will want to be more involved than others and some will find being involved easier than others. However, in all cases the local authority must encourage the carer to be as involved as they can be and be flexible in their approach to assessment to facilitate this. It may be necessary to appoint an Independent Advocate if it is identified that the carer would have substantial difficulty engaging in the process, without additional support, and there is not an Appropriate Individual that can maximise the carers involvement in the intervention.

Upon completion of a carer’s assessment, the local authority should have a full picture of the carer’s needs, priorities, and personal outcomes; and how the identified needs impact on the carer’s individual wellbeing. It should have evidence to indicate if the carer is willing and able to continue providing the care and support.  

The carer should have been provided with appropriate information and advice to enable them to work towards their priorities and personal outcomes, having been supported to identify their existing or potential set of personal strengths, or that which could be accessed from support of family, friends or the wider community resources.

A carer’s assessment can be carried out under the Act as a combined assessment at the same time as the person being cared for, so long as it is deemed appropriate to do so. Both the carer and the person being cared for must agree to this and there must be no conflict between the two.

The information gathered during the assessment will enable the local authority to undertake a determination following the guidelines of Section 13 of the Act and the accompanying Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2015. 

The local authority must provide the carer with a copy of their assessment and their eligibility determination.

This factsheet relates only to carers of adults who need care and support. The Care Act factsheet 2: Legal duties for assessment of needs for care and support explains the equivalent provisions for adults with needs.

What happens after charging reform?

The introduction of the cap on care costs (anticipated in 2025) does not make any changes to the way in which a carer’s assessment is undertaken. However, in the event that the assessment intervention results in the implementation of a carer’s support plan, the cap could have implications for a carer.

Section 14 of the Act gives the local authority the power to charge. In most cases local authorities do not charge for providing support to carers, in recognition of the valuable contribution that carers make to their local community. However, this is something that the local authority can decide.

If a local authority utilises the power to charge, a financial assessment must be undertaken to determine the level of capital and savings that the carer has. Until the cap on care costs is initiated, if the carer has more than £23,500 in savings and capital, they will be deemed to be a self-funder. In such circumstances the self-funding carer can request the local authority to arrange care and support on their behalf but may be charged a fee for this service. When the cap on care costs is introduced, the upper capital limit will change from £23,500 to £100,000.

If a carer has savings or capital below the current threshold of £23,500 but does have £14,250 or above, a means test will identify how much they should contribute towards the cost of the identified support. When the cap on care costs is introduced, the lower capital limit will change from £14,250 to £20,000.

If a carer is charged for support provided by the local authority the most the carer will be expected to contribute towards the support with be £86,000 (under current proposals).  Once this threshold has been met, the local authority will be responsible for any costs incurred to meet eligible needs.

Legislation and further resources

Gov UK, Care and support statutory guidance (Gov.UK, 2023)

SCIE, Care Act: assessment and eligibility (SCIE, 2024)

SCIE, Practice example: Eligibility (adult and carer) (SCIE, 2024)

SCIE, Care Act: Legal duties and impact on individuals (SCIE, 2024)

Carer’s assessment:

Legislation UK, Care Act 2014: Section 10 (Legislation.GOV.UK, 2024)

Eligibility criteria:

Legislation UK, Care Act 2014: Section 13 (Legislation.GOV.UK, 2024)

Eligibility regulations:

Legislation UK, The Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2015 (Legislation.GOV.UK, 2024)

Support plan:

Legislation UK, Care Act 2014: Section 25 (Legislation.GOV.UK, 2024)

Independent Advocacy:

Legislation UK, Care Act 2014: Section 67 (Legislation.GOV.UK, 2024)