You might need support in your daily life, such as help with taking care of yourself, going shopping, visiting the doctor or looking for work. You may also like support to meet up with friends, take part in your hobby or have a holiday away from your family.

Your Health and Social Care Trust (HSC Trust) can help you to work out what you need, and might be able to help to arrange the support. You might have to pay for some of the support.

Get information about needs assessments, paying for support and support for carers. You can also find out how to make a complaint, about community care for children, and where to get advice.

Needs assessment

Your HSC Trust must do a needs assessment if you appear to need care and support. Even if they think you are unlikely to get support services, you are still entitled to an assessment.

You could use our letter template to ask your HSC Trust for a needs assessment. If you haven’t had a reply within six weeks, contact your HSC Trust to find out what is happening.

A social worker or other professional will usually visit you at home to do the assessment. You can have a family member, friend, carer or advocate with you during the assessment, if you want to. The professional will talk to you about what matters most to you and what help you need to do those things. This is called being person-centred.

The assessment should include needs you may have in the future, and whether your wellbeing is likely to get worse in the near future if support is not put in place.

More about needs assessments


Not everyone who has a needs assessment will be entitled to get support.

Your HSC Trust will work out whether your needs meet the Department of Health’s eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria are designed to work out how vulnerable you are, what risks you face now and in the future, and to ensure that those at greatest risk are given the highest priority.

If your needs don’t meet the eligibility criteria, you won’t get care and support services. Your HSC Trust must write to you and let you know that you aren’t eligible, and why. They should also tell you about where else you might get help, and about their complaints procedure.

Find local support groups and projects.

Planning your support

If you are eligible for support, your HSC Trust should develop a care plan. This should include:

  • what your needs, likes and dislikes are
  • how your needs will be met
  • a plan in case of emergency
  • any care your carers are willing and able to provide
  • a date to review the plan.

Find out about different support options.

You might have to wait a short time for your support to start. You have a right to complain if you have to wait a long time (for example more than 6 weeks) without getting any services.

Reviewing your support

Your HSC Trust should regularly review your support to make sure that it still meets your needs. They should also review it if you tell them that there has been an important change, for example your carer wants to go back to work.

Paying for support

You might have to pay for some of the social care services you get. The HSC Trust should work out what services you need before doing a financial assessment. This is so that your ability to pay doesn't influence their decisions over what to provide. How much you pay will depend on your income, savings and living expenses.

If you have very complex ongoing healthcare needs, you might be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare funding.

Direct payments

If your HSC Trust is going to fund some or all of your support, they will arrange services for you. If you want, you can ask them to give the funding to you, or your carer, as a direct payment instead. With direct payments, you will be able to choose what, how and when support is provided, and who provides it. This is called self-directed support.

More about direct payments

Support for your carer

If you have a carer, they are entitled to an assessment of their needs. A person is a carer if they give you substantial and regular care and are not paid for it. After a carer's assessment, your HSC Trust might offer your carer some support. Your carer might have to pay for some of the services they get, depending on their financial circumstances.

More about carer’s assessments

If you don’t agree with something

If you disagree with a decision not to pay for your care services, or you don’t think you’ve been offered enough support to meet your needs, or a service has been stopped, you can challenge the decision.

Complaining about social care services

Making decisions

If you aren’t able to make some, or any, decisions independently, someone else can help you to manage your money or care arrangements.

Managing someone else's affairs

Other types of support


Adapting your home

Support and social groups

Transport and car costs

Further information

Disability Action

Carers Northern Ireland


Get care advice

Last reviewed December 2017