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.

Coronavirus Update

The information on this page is now also subject to The Coronavirus Act 2020, which is emergency legislation that has been passed to help tackle coronavirus. This Act has the potential to change how local authorities assess your needs and when they will provide support. 

You may wish to read our briefing on the impact of the Coronavirus Act on accessing social care where you live:

If you are based in Northern Ireland, please contact Law Centre NI’s Health and Social Care Hub for further advice on this.

You may also wish to read the Community Care information on Sight Advice FAQ.

For up to date advice tailored to your circumstances, please call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999, from 8am to 8pm weekdays or 9am to 1pm Saturdays.

Social care 

Social care can help support you to lead an independent life. It can include the following types of help:

  • Visual impairment rehabilitation including mobility training and daily living skills
  • Provision of equipment, aids and minor adaptations to the home
  • Personal care at home
  • Domestic help
  • Answering correspondence
  • Help with shopping
  • Services in day centres
  • Care in residential or nursing homes

For more information on the help you can receive from your local social services department, please see our Help from social services booklet:

Accessing social care

The rules for accessing social care are different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but there are many similarities in how social care is accessed in practice.

This page will guide you through the general process of getting support and point out where there are differences between countries and where you can get more information about this.

In England, Wales and Scotland social care is delivered by your local authority’s social services department. In Northern Ireland it is delivered by your Health and Social Care Trust. In all cases, the first step to getting social care support is usually to contact your local authority or Health and Social Care Trust to explain that you have sight loss and would like an assessment of your needs.

If you need to request a social care assessment or complain about delays in getting one then you may wish to complete one of our template precedent letters below and send to your local authority:

If you are based in Northern Ireland and are having difficulties getting an assessment, then you can contact Law Centre NI’s Health and Social Care Hub for assistance with this.

The importance of rehabilitation

Once your local authority or Health and Social Care Trust are made aware that you may have a need for care and support, they have a legal duty to carry out an assessment. Before this happens you may be offered support by a "Sensory Impairment Team" at the local authority or health and social care trust, which can provide sight loss specific support, such as visual impairment rehabilitation.

Vision rehabilitation is a period of training delivered by Rehabilitation Officers, often called ROVIs. It is designed to help people with sight loss maintain their independence through relearning practical daily and mobility skills.

It can also include providing community equipment and minor adaptations where appropriate such as:

  • Magnification software
  • Screen readers
  • White canes
  • Gadgets for the kitchen
  • Tactile watches and alarm clocks
  • Telephones with a large colour-contrasting keypad

Minor adaptations include things such as:

  • Lighting
  • Grab rails
  • Lever taps
  • Non slip flooring

In England, local authorities in England have a legal obligation under the Care Act 2014 to help people with sight loss develop practical skills and strategies to maintain independence, including:

  • At least 6 weeks of free vision rehabilitation
  • Free community equipment, including minor adaptations to the home where this costs £1000 or less.

If you are based in England and are having difficulties accessing this support then please read and complete our toolkit:

If you are based in Wales, you also have a legal right to free rehabilitation services for at least the first 6 weeks, but you may be means-tested for contributions towards any community equipment or adaptations you are assessed as needing. If you are having difficulties accessing rehabilitation, you may wish to use our template precedent letter to complain to the council regarding this:

In Scotland there is not a legal right relating to free rehabilitation but there is guidance recommending its provision and so in practice this will often be available free of charge. If you are having difficulties accessing rehabilitation, you may wish to use our template precedent letter to complain to the council regarding this:

If you are based in Northern Ireland and are having difficulties accessing vision impairment rehabilitation, then you can contact Law Centre NI’s Health and Social Care Hub for assistance with this.

Social care assessments

If you have longer term care and support needs that can’t be addressed by rehabilitation alone, then a full assessment of your needs may be required to see if you are eligible for support. The eligibility criteria for social care assessments is different across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, please see our factsheets for each region for more information:

We have an online Social Care Assessment Toolkit to help you prepare for your social care assessment. The toolkit allows you to create an online record of your care and support needs, which you then can download and print off to hand in to the professional carrying out your assessment.

For advice and information on social care assessments in Northern Ireland, you can contact Law Centre NI’s Health and Social Care Hub. See the Contact details section at the end of the page for contact information.

Delivery of support

If you have been found eligible for social care support there are various ways that you can receive the support from your local authority or Health and Social Care trust, such as:  

  • provide you with support directly
  • arrange for care and support to be provided through another organisation
  • provide you (or someone else on your behalf) with a sum of money to pay for care and support yourself, called a direct payment. While direct payments give you more flexibility and choice around choosing who provides your support, you will take on the legal responsibilities of being an employer.
  • Adopt a mix of the above approaches

Charges for social care

You may be required to contribute towards your social care. Whether this applies to you will depend on where you are living and what type of support you receive.

There are different charging rules in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are also different charging rules depending on whether you are being supported in residential care or you are getting care in your own home.

Residential Care

For advice and information on social care charges for residential care, you can contact Age UK, who have different helpline numbers depending upon where you are based:

  • England: 0800 678 1602
  • Wales: 08000 223 444
  • Scotland: 0800 12 44 222
  • Northern Ireland: 0808 808 7575

Care received at home

If you are based in England you can use our Toolkit for challenging home care charge. This helps you check whether you are being charged the correct amount for social care at home and has template letters to help you request a review if you are being overcharged. 

If you are in Wales you can find out more in out Guide to social care assessment factsheets:

If you are in Scotland you can find out more in our Guide to social care:

If you are based in Northern Ireland you can get further advice and information on charges for social care from Northern Ireland Law Centre’s Health and Social care hub.

What if things go wrong?

There can be disputes between you and your local authority or health and social care trust. This could be because of delays, their decision about your eligibility for support, the level of your care package or the cost of what you have been asked to pay.

You may need to lodge a complaint with your local authority or Health and Social Care Trust. If you need assistance with this then contact our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected], our Legal Rights Service may be able to assist you with this.

There are different complaints procedures across the UK which you can read more about in our guides to social care:

If you are based in Northern Ireland you can get further advice and help with challenging a decision from Law Centre NI’s Health and Social care hub.

We have a general template complaint letter that you may wish to use to lodge your complaint:

Do you need to complain about your care agency?

If the local authority is funding your care then you can complain to them (as well as the care provider) about the care you are receiving. We have a set of template letters to assist you with this here:

Contact details

Northern Ireland Law Centre’s Health and Social Care Hub

Telephone: 028 9024 4401, open 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday

Relevant factsheets

England

Wales

Scotland