Help from your local authority's social services team, often called social care or community care, can help you to continue to lead an independent life.

What sort of help can I receive from social services?

The help that you can receive from social services varies from one local authority to another, but can include things like:

  • free rehabilitation including mobility training and life skills
  • aids and adaptations to your home
  • help with personal care, such as bathing, getting up and going to bed
  • help with shopping
  • answering correspondence
  • cleaning
  • help with cooking.

The additional help you receive will depend on the level of help that you need. Your council will assess your needs and consider your need as falling within one of four bands of eligibility: critical, substantial, moderate or low. Different councils provide services in different bands.

Specialist care for blind and partially sighted people

Most social services departments will have a specialist team, often called a "Sensory Impairment Team", which provides more specialised services to people with sight loss. The team can provide rehabilitation and mobility training, a demonstration of low vision aids and equipment, and information on local support groups and clubs. You should be able to get help from your Sensory Impairment Team - especially rehabilitation training - free of charge and without the need for a formal assessment. The Sensory Impairment Team can also help you to register your sight loss with your local authority.

Social care assessments

To know if you are eligible for other help you first must have an assessment. Social services cannot refuse you an assessment and you have the right to an assessment once social services are aware you may have a need for support.

An assessment is traditionally carried out by a social worker or similar professional, who will visit you at home and ask you questions about different aspects of your life, including your health and disabilities.

For an assessment to be as useful to you as possible it is important to prepare. Information on preparing for a social care assessment can be found in our factsheet:

Charges for social care provided

Once social services have determined what help you may need and the help it will offer you it will carry out a financial assessment. This allows them to decide how much, if anything, you might need to contribute towards the cost of this help.

Each local authority has its own policy on charging but there is national guidance that they must follow. Any charge imposed should be affordable and you can challenge the amount if you believe it to be excessive.

What if things go wrong?

An assessment can be one of the biggest areas of dispute between you and your local social services department. This could be because you are unhappy with how the council has dealt with you, your assessment, the services provided to you or the cost you have been asked to pay.

You can ask your local authority for help to complain or you can ask for help from a local advice agency or our Legal Rights Service. You can contact our Legal Rights Service by calling our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or emailing helpline@rnib.org.uk.

Personalisation and self-directed support

Instead of social services organising and delivering your care directly, it may offer you the opportunity to organise your own care. This is often referred to as "personalisation".

Through personalisation, your local authority will provide you with a payment for you to arrange your own help or equipment in line with your care needs. This allows you to have more choice - and often more flexibility - over what kind of support you need, allowing you to personalise your care or help. You may decide, for example, to buy a computer or pay for childcare, but this must all be done with the agreement of social services.

Getting in touch with social services

If you decide to ask social services for support you can get their phone number from our Helpline (0303 123 9999), from Directory Enquiries or using the Sightline Directory. You can also find their details through your local authority's website. To find out your local authority, you can use the local council directory.

Further information

For more information on getting help from social services, please see our leaflet:

You can also get more advice by calling our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 and asking to speak to the Advice Service, or email helpline@rnib.org.uk.

We're here to help

Our Helpline is your direct line to the support, advice, and products you need to face the future with confidence. If you or someone you know has a sight problem, our specialist advice workers can help.

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