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Social care

Social care aims to provide personal and practical support to help people live their lives and to maintain independence and control over how they live. Social care may be provided in your own home, in a residential care home or by organising respite breaks for a few hours or days.

You can read more about the range of social care services available on the NHS Choices website.

Your rights and choices are set out in the government's Adult social care choice framework.

Care and support at home

You may be able to obtain support and care in your own home through your local council. Assistance can improve your quality of life and allow you to continue living in your own home. Social care may include help with:

  • washing, dressing, preparing meals, eating
  • cleaning, shopping
  • going to the toilet
  • equipment and adaptations, such as a stair lift or a downstairs bathroom
  • getting to a day centre to give you, or the person who cares for you, a break
  • day care for your child if you are disabled

To access care, you need to contact the adult social services department of your local council (usually the county council or equivalent authority) and ask them to carry out an assessment of your needs. In Northern Ireland, you contact your local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust. A relative, friend or carer can ask on your behalf.

A social worker will discuss your situation with you and what you'd like to achieve. The council must carry out an assessment if you appear to need care even if you will not be eligible for funding from them.

How you pay for social care is slightly different in the four nations of the UK. A financial appraisal is also carried out. If you have savings and capital above a certain level, you will be expected to contribute to some or all of the costs of your care. The level of savings is different in the four nations of the UK. There are links to more on this in the Further information section.

If you're eligible for support from the council, you'll be given a care plan outlining the help you can receive. You will also have the option of arranging and being given control of the payments for your own care. This is known as direct payments or a personal budget.

If you do not qualify for local authority support, you can arrange your own care. This may allow you more choice and control over the arrangements. You could use the results of your needs assessment to decide what amount and type of care would suit you best.


Sometimes you or someone caring for you may need a break for a few days. Respite care can be provided as short-term residential care in a residential home, in a holiday location or sometimes within your own home.

Read more about respite in the A-Z of MS

Residential care

For some people, moving to a setting where care is provided may be more appropriate.  Depending on the location and availability, different types of care may be available.

Extra care housing schemes or warden-controlled sheltered accommodation offer an increased level of care and support but retain a level of independence. They may be provided by the local council, through housing associations or privately.

Some people's needs are best met by a residential home. The majority of residential care accommodation is for older people, but there are homes that cater to the needs of younger people with a disability. At some residential homes, nursing care is offered if you need it.

As for care at home, how much you will pay depends on your personal and financial circumstances.

Read more about care homes on the NHS Choices website

These charities provide care homes and other services for people below retirement age:

Problems with social care

If you're having problems getting the support that is right for you, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

The Citizen's Advice website has information on social care and support:

Inspection agencies

Care homes and home care agencies are regularly inspected to make sure they comply with nationally agreed standards. The inspection agencies include lists of registered services and the agency's reports about each service.

Further information and support

Money Advice Service - offers free and impartial advice, including choosing and paying for care.

Disability Rights UK - supports disabled people and those living with health conditions.

Age UK - although written for older people, their information on paying for care at home may be helpful at any age

Independent Age - offers a helpline and advice on care for older people.

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