How to get social care services

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

This information applies to Scotland only

How to get social care services

Unless you urgently need services, for example, if you have just left hospital, you will have your needs assessed by the council before it decides whether to provide social care services to you. This is called a Community Care Assessment. 

Carers can ask for an assessment of their own needs, called a Carers Assessment. 

The council must assess anyone who appears to need a social care service, for example if you're elderly, disabled or have a long-term health condition.

You should contact your council's social care department and ask for an assessment. Find your local council's social care department on the Find My Council page on Care Information Scotland's website

A carer, friend or relative can also ask for an assessment on your behalf. 

Before you ask for an assessment, check our advice for thinking about your needs.

Support for carers

A carer is someone such as a relative or friend who takes responsibility for looking after you and who does not provide the care as part of a job or as a volunteer with a voluntary organisation. Some carers provide care for a few hours a week, others for 24 hours a day, every day. A carer does not have to be living with you.

You can ask for support for yourself even if the person you care for is entitled to an assessment but does not want one. If you're an adult, you should ask for an Adult Carer Support Plan. If you're a child or a young adult, you should ask for a Young Carers Statement. Carers of disabled children can also ask for an Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carers Statement. 

There is more information about support for carers on our page Carers: help and support.

If you have problems getting an assessment

There are long waits for assessments in some council areas. If you've been denied an assessment or think you've waited too long, get some advice.

Contact a specialist adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau

What happens during an assessment

An assessment is carried out by someone from or acting on behalf of the council. A social worker, occupational therapist or community care assistant usually arranges to meet with you, often in your own home.

You, and your carers, may want to think about what your needs are before this assessment takes place. Check our advice on what services you could get

The assessment procedure may involve filling in a form but this will vary from area to area. The assessment should take into account:

  • your wishes as the person being assessed

  • whether you have any particular physical difficulties, for example, problems with walking or climbing stairs

  • whether you have any particular health or housing needs

  • what sources of help you have access to, such as carers, family or nearby friends, and their willingness to continue providing care.


You can ask for a reassessment of your needs at any time if you feel the services you are getting no longer meet your needs. You should be aware that the local authority may decide to increase, change or reduce the services it provides depending on the reassessment.

If you are provided with supported accommodation under a private residential tenancy, for example, you may be assessed as no longer having this need and could lose your home as a result. In this case you may need to think carefully about whether a reassessment is required and get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

The local authority may also start a reassessment if it plans to stop, change or reduce the services it provides. 

If you want to challenge a reassessment decision, you can get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. They will also provide specialist housing advice if you are in danger of losing your supported accommodation. 

Paying for community care services

Your council social care department must make information about charges generally available. If you're having your community care needs assessed you must also be given full information on charges for any services provided.

The rules about which community care services must be paid for, and how much can be charged, are complicated. If you want information on this, it may help you to consult an experienced adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau

The information below does not cover charges for care homes. For more information about charges, see our advice on care homes.

Your local authority social care department can charge for providing some community care services.

Some local authorities only charge for some services, for example, a meal delivery service. Other local authorities may charge for all the services they are allowed to charge for.

Free personal or nursing care

You may be eligible for free personal care or nursing care at home. Free personal care or nursing care is available to all adults who are assessed by their local authority as needing this service. There is information on what type of help comes under these rules on the Care Information Scotland website at:

Care Information Scotland

Helpline: 0800 011 3200 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)


Challenge a refusal of free provision of a service

If your local authority social care department refuses to provide a service for free, you can challenge the decision. If you are not happy with the outcome, you could then make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Flat rate fee or sliding scale

Some local authority social care departments make a flat rate charge for a service, for example, a meal delivery service. Others may want to know how much income and savings you have and then charge according to a sliding scale.

Government guidance

Your local authority social services departments should follow the guidance about charging for non-residential care services produced by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). You can ask your local authority or COSLA for a copy of this guidance.

Ask for a review of charges

If you have been asked to pay for services and you think the charges are unreasonable or you can't afford to pay them, you can ask for the charges to be reviewed. If you want to challenge charges, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau

Self-directed support

Self-directed support aims to give you choice and control over your care. You can decide how much ongoing control and responsibility you want over your own care arrangements. Some people will choose to have lots of control over their care and some will leave most of the decisions and work to their local authority. Other people may do a bit of both. If you decide that you want to pay for the care yourself, you will get a direct payment from the local authority.

There are four options for self-directed support:

  • you take a direct payment - the council decides how much money can be spent on your support and this is paid directly to you. You and your family or carer then arrange your own care and support. More about Direct payments

  • you decide and your local authority arranges support - the council decides how much money can be spent on your support. You chose a care organisation to provide your support and your local authority arranges it for you

  • the council both decides and arranges support - after discussion with you, your local authority decides how much money can be spent on your support. You ask your local authority to arrange the support that they think is right for you

  • you use a mixture of ways to arrange your care and support - this option lets you decide on some aspects of your support and leave other decisions to your local authority

You can get more information about self-directed support from the Self-Directed Support in Scotland website. It has a postcode search feature to help find services and organisations that can provide further help in you local area.

Direct payments

If you decide that you want to pay for the care yourself, you will get a direct payment from the local authority. The amount of direct payment you get should cover the cost of buying services to meet your needs. This includes any extra costs you have to pay in order to get the service. For example, if you employ your own carer, you will have to pay costs such as recruitment costs, holiday and sick pay and insurance.

In the same way that you may have to pay for services arranged by your local authority social care department, you may have to make a contribution towards the cost of services you are buying with direct payments. Your local authority will work this out in the same way it works out how much you have to pay towards services it arranges itself - see Paying for community care services. The local authority will either deduct your contribution before paying you the direct payment or pay the direct payment in full and you will have to pay your contribution back.

If you are offered a direct payment, you do not have to accept it if you would rather have services arranged by the local authority social services department.

If you do get direct payments, you will have to arrange your own services. Local support organisations may be able to help you with these arrangements.

Benefits and concessions

If you need community care services because you're disabled, make sure that you're also claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. There may be other support available, for example, travel concessions.

More about benefits for people who are sick and disabled.

More about travel concessions and advice for disabled travellers.

Other help in your area

Find community support and health and wellbeing resources in your area using the ALISS website