Social care and rehabilitation

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?

Your local council’s social services department is there to give you the help and support you need to continue to lead an independent life. This can include:

  • free rehabilitation including mobility training and life skills
  • personal care at home
  • domestic help
  • answering correspondence
  • help with shopping
  • services in day centres
  • provision of equipment, aids and minor adaptations to the home
  • care in residential or nursing homes

Accessing help from social services

The first step to getting help from social services is usually to contact them explaining that you are blind or partially sighted and that you would like an assessment of your needs.

However, there are other ways to arrange this:

  • You can register your sight loss
  • Your high street optician can give you an information guide called the Low Vision Leaflet (LVL), which has a form you can fill in and send to social services to arrange an assessment
  • Hospital eye clinic staff can fill in a form called a Referral of Vision Impairment (RVI) which is sent to social services to request an assessment

For more information on the help you can receive from your local social services department, please see our Help from Social Services leaflet, which is part of our Starting Out series:

The importance of rehabilitation

Most social services departments will have a specialist "Sensory Impairment Team" which provides more specialised services to people with sight loss. They provide rehabilitation (mobility and daily living training) together with low vision aids and equipment free of charge. For more information on rehabilitation, equipment and minor adaptations, see our factsheet on Staying Independent below:

Social care assessments

If you have longer term care and support needs that can’t be addressed by rehabilitation alone, then you must have a formal assessment of your needs to identify what help you are eligible for. Your needs assessment should look into what support you may need to live a fulfilling life as independently as possible. It should be carried out by a professional who is appropriately trained and understands your condition. This will often be a professional such as a rehabilitation worker for blind and partially sighted people, social worker or care manager. They will usually do this in your home, so that they get a better understanding of your home life. Sometimes they may carry out the assessment at other places such as a social services office, a day centre or a resource centre.

The law covering social care is different in England to Wales.

We currently have two factsheets to guide you through the English social care system and help you prepare for an assessment:   

We also have a 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. 

In Wales, The Social Services and Wellbeing Act 2014 (Wales) has changed how social care is assessed in Wales from April 2016. We are currently reviewing our Welsh information resources to reflect these changes and will make them available as soon as possible. 

If you have any questions about social care assessments then you can contact our Advice Team by calling or emailing our Helpline. 

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.

For more information on paying for care and support at home in England, see our factsheet on help with charges:

Again there are different national rules depending on where in the UK you live. If you have any questions about charging you can speak with our Advice Team by calling or emailing our Helpline.

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 or emailing our Helpline. 

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.

Further information

To speak to our Legal Rights or Advice Service, please call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected].