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Social care and support guide

Care and support you can get for free

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There's some help and support you can get for free that's available to everyone.

It's not means-tested and it does not matter what your income is.

This free care includes:

  • some equipment and home adaptations
  • benefits
  • help after coming home from hospital
  • NHS continuing healthcare
  • nursing in a care home (NHS-funded nursing care)

Free home adaptations and equipment

You may be entitled to free home adaptations and equipment provided they cost less than £1,000 each.

The type of adaptations and equipment this includes are:

  • handrails for the stairs
  • grab rails for the bathroom
  • an intercom system for answering your front door
  • ramps for wheelchair access
  • a walking frame
  • perching stools in your kitchen or shower

If the hospital gives you any equipment to use when you get home, such as a toilet surround frame, this should also be free.

How do I get it?

Ask the adult social services department of your local council for a home assessment. You can do this online or by telephoning them.

Apply for a home assessment

An occupational therapist will visit you at home to see what you need.

If the assessment finds you need a change to your home or a piece of equipment that costs less than £1,000, the council must provide it free of charge.

Read more about home adaptations.

Read more about household equipment and gadgets.

Benefits you can claim

Make sure you claim any benefits that you're entitled to.

Some, like Attendance Allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), are not means tested.

If you're looking after someone, you may be able to claim a carer's benefit.

How do I get it?

If you're eligible for a benefit, you have to apply by filling in a form.

Find out how to apply for:

Help after you come home from hospital

You may be eligible for free care and support at home for up to 6 weeks after a stay in hospital, or to prevent you going into hospital.

It's known as intermediate care or reablement. The idea is to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

It might include equipment or home adaptations to help you get around the house.

Or it might be home help from a paid carer for tasks like cleaning, getting washed and dressed, and using the toilet.

How do I get it?

Hospital staff will arrange this for you before you leave hospital.

If you or someone you know has fallen or needs help because they're ill, speak to their GP.

They should be able to arrange for someone to come to your home and discuss what you need.

Read more about care after illness or hospital discharge.

NHS continuing healthcare

NHS continuing healthcare is a package of care you may be entitled to receive if you have a serious disability or illness.

It covers the full cost of your care (in your own home or a care home), including:

  • healthcare
  • personal care, such as help getting washed and dressed
  • care home fees, including accommodation costs

You may qualify for NHS continuing healthcare if you have a "primary health need". This means that the majority of your care must involve managing your health needs, rather than social or personal care needs.

You'll need to go through an initial screening process using a checklist. Only if this initial screening process is positive will you then be eligible for a detailed full assessment of your needs.

The purpose of the full assessment is to find out if you are eligible for NHS continuing healthcare funding.

The assessment process can be complex, but if you're eligible, you or the person you care for will have all health and social care needs funded by the NHS.

How do I get it?

Ask a GP, social worker or health professional, such as a district nurse, to arrange an initial screening process for NHS continuing healthcare to find out if you are eligible for a full assessment.

If your health, or the health of someone you care for, is getting worse quickly, ask if you would be eligible for a fast-track assessment.

An organisation called Beacon gives free independent advice on NHS continuing healthcare.

Visit the Beacon website or call the free helpline on 0345 548 0300.

Read more about NHS continuing healthcare.

Nursing in a care home

If you live in a nursing home, the NHS will sometimes pay towards your fees.

With NHS-funded nursing care, the NHS pays a flat rate of £158.16 a week directly to the nursing home to reimburse them for the nursing care they're providing for you.

This reduces the amount you pay in fees.

How do I get it?

Ask a hospital discharge nurse, GP or social worker to arrange an assessment for NHS-funded nursing care.

If you have already had the assessment for NHS continuing healthcare, you will not need a separate one for NHS-funded nursing care.

Read more about NHS-funded nursing care.

Page last reviewed: 08/08/2018
Next review due: 08/08/2021