Preparing to Establish the Needs of Young Carers

There is a legal requirement to notify and involve:

  1. The young carer's parents, whether or not they have parental responsibility (a mother will always have parental responsibility but a father may not);
  2. Any other person with parental responsibility for the young carer (which could include a step-parent);
  3. Any other person that the young carer's parents request is involved (which could include a step-parent).

Parental Responsibility

Having parental responsibility means being legally responsible for the welfare of the young carer in a range of areas. Parental responsibility does not end until the young carer is 18.

Examples of the welfare a person with parental responsibility is responsible for include:

  1. Making sure that the young carer has somewhere to live;
  2. Making sure the young carer is safe; and
  3. Making sure the young carer is cared for.

As the young carer gets older and they become more and more able to make their own decisions parental responsibility reduces accordingly. This means that at the time the young carer is assessed for transitional support parental responsibility will be much diminished.

In all cases you should let the young carer's parents know that you will be carrying out the needs assessment.

The method of communication should reflect that requested by the parent/s and any specific communication needs they may have.

For the purposes of the Care Act communication about the assessment is subject to the same requirements as the provision of information and advice, and the duty to make it accessible therefore applies equally.

See: How to Provide Information and Advice to read more about how to provide information in an accessible way under the Care Act.

In all cases where communication has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the parent/s as a formal record.

Sometimes the relationship that the young carer has with their parent (or the relationship that parents have with each other) may not maximise the involvement of the young carer in the assessment process. For example:

  1. The young carer may become overly distracted by their presence;
  2. The young carer may become distressed at their presence;
  3. Parents may be estranged and there is a high risk of conflict during meetings.

You have a duty to maximise the involvement of the young carer so will need to consider any adjustments you need to make to the planned process.

Examples of adjustments could include:

  1. Holding separate meetings with each parent;
  2. Meeting with the young carer without the parent's presence;
  3. Involving a parent via consultation only; and
  4. Involving the parent in some aspects of the assessment but not others.

It is important that the young carer knows you will be carrying out the assessment as soon as possible so that they can begin to prepare for it.

You will need to make a decision about the best way to do this based upon:

  1. The young carer's age and ability to understand the information to be provided;
  2. The likely impact of the information on the young carer's Wellbeing; and
  3. The views of the young carer's parents about the best way to communicate the information to the young carer.

You should endeavour to notify the young carer of the assessment yourself, either on a 1:1 basis or with the support of another (for example an advocate, parent or teacher).

If you decide not to notify the young carer directly this decision must be made in agreement with a person who has parental responsibility and may include the following situations:

  1. When you do not already know the young carer and the information is best communicated by someone who knows them;
  2. When the young carer has requested the information is provided to a third party.

The method of communication should reflect that requested by the young carer and any specific communication needs they may have.

For the purposes of the Care Act communication about the assessment is subject to the same requirements as the provision of information and advice, and the duty to make it accessible therefore applies equally.

See: How to Provide Information and Advice to read more about how to provide information in an accessible way under the Care Act.

In all cases where communication has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the young carer (and their parents) as a formal record.

If you are able to make arrangements for the assessment to be carried out you should do so. See Section 5, Arranging the Assessment and Preparing the Young Carer.

If you are not able to arrange the assessment at this first contact you should:

  1. Be satisfied that the delay is not going to increase the risk of deterioration in need or circumstances;
  2. Be satisfied that the delay is not going to increase the risk of abuse or neglect;
  3. Provide any information or advice that may be beneficial at that time;
  4. Be satisfied that the young carer (and their parent) understands the reason for the delay;
  5. Agree a proposed timeframe for the assessment to be carried out and further contact to be made; and
  6. Advise the young carer (and their parents) what to do should their situation change.

An element of monitoring should be incorporated into any delayed process to ensure that you remain aware of the young carer's situation and are able to respond appropriately to any changes or need to re-prioritise their assessment.

If the timeframe for assessment agreed with the young carer (and their parents) changes you should let them know as soon as possible. If you experience difficulties prioritising your own work you should seek support from your line manager.

If the young carer (or their parent) is not happy about any delays and you are satisfied that you are taking all reasonable steps to make arrangements and reduce risk you must make them aware of their right to complain.

A young carer's assessment can only be carried out if the young carer it relates to has given their consent unless the young carer is under the age of 16 and lacks Gillick competence to consent.

Need to know

To pass the Gillick competency test the young carer must be able to understand what they are consenting to and the implications and likely outcome of consenting.

If the young carer is able to consent then their consent must be obtained before carrying out the assessment.

Where the young carer lacks competency to consent a person with parental responsibility can give consent. Their mother will always have parental responsibility, and normally the father will as well. Depending on the circumstances other people may also have been granted parental responsibility by the courts.

If an assessment is refused you should:

  1. Confirm to the young carer (and their parents) that the assessment is not being carried out on the basis that they have refused it;
  2. Provide any information and advice about adult Care and Support and the transition process as appropriate and relevant;
  3. Provide any information and advice that will reduce, delay or prevent the need for Support;
  4. Let the young carer (and their parents) know they have the right to an assessment at any point in the future on the appearance of need alone;
  5. Provide information about how the young carer (or their parents) can request an assessment in the future; and
  6. Where there is a need to monitor the situation, agree how this will happen; and
  7. Where the situation is to be monitored, explain that the Local Authority will offer the young carer another assessment at any point that it feels this would be beneficial to them.

Where communication about refusal is provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the young carer (and their parents) as a formal record.

If a young carer has substantial difficulty being involved in any Care and Support process you must take all reasonable steps to maximise their involvement.

You must:

  1. Ensure that you have provided information in an accessible way, or that the young carer has an appropriate person to support them to understand it;
  2. Arrange to carry out the assessment in an appropriate format so that it is accessible. This is likely to be face to face, unless the young carer's difficulty arises when engaging in face to face communication;
  3. Consider whether the young carer has an appropriate person to support their involvement and, if not, whether the advocacy duty applies.

See: Using Independent Advocacy, which includes guidance on how to establish whether a young carer needs an advocate and how to make a referral.

The young carer's parent (or anyone with parental responsibility) is not able to refuse an assessment unless:

  1. The young carer is under the age of 16; and
  2. Has been found to lack competence to consent using the Gillick competency test.

The only grounds upon which the Local Authority can lawfully refuse a young carer's assessment are:

  1. There is no likely appearance of any need from the age of 18; or
  2. Carrying out the young carer's assessment at that time would not be of significant benefit.

Significant benefit will generally be had at the point when any needs for Support the young carer may have as an adult can be predicted reasonably confidently. This should have already been determined at the point of contact or referral.

If you do feel that an assessment is not appropriate you should discuss this with a manager before refusing it as you must be sure that the decision to refuse is legally sound.

It is unlikely that the Local Authority would refuse many assessment requests.

If any assessment is refused by the Local Authority you must confirm this in writing and explain to the young person (and their parents):

  1. The reason the assessment has been refused;
  2. Information and advice about what can be done to prevent or reduce the development of needs for Care and Support in the future; and
  3. What to do if their needs change in the future.

Whenever you refuse to carry out a young carer's assessment on the basis that the timing is not of significant benefit you must indicate when it may be of significant benefit and make appropriate arrangements to make sure that the assessment is carried out at that time.

If the assessment was requested by anyone other than the young carer and it has been refused you should notify the person who requested it so that they can make any arrangements to discuss other options with the young carer. For example this could be:

  1. A parent;
  2. A health professional;
  3. Another social worker or an occupational therapist;
  4. A teacher;
  5. A housing officer;
  6. A care provider.

Sometimes another person will obstruct you from carrying out a young carer's assessment with a young carer. This can happen at any point from initial contact, to arranging an assessment, to carrying out an assessment. You should establish whether:

  1. The young carer has asked the person to obstruct the assessment;
  2. The person obstructing the assessment is doing so out of concern for the young carer (for example would the assessment process cause anxiety).

Wherever possible you should provide information and advice relating to adult Care and Support, transitions and the assessment process to the person obstructing the assessment, to support them to understand the benefits and engage in the process.

If the person continues to obstruct the assessment, and you are not able to establish from the young carer that this is at their request you must take action to ensure the assessment is carried out. By obstructing the assessment process the person is:

  1. Putting the young carer at risk through lack of support now or when they become 18;
  2. Preventing the Local Authority from fulfilling its duties under the Care Act to assess and meet eligible needs.

An assessment in this situation can be carried out based on the information available and through consultation with others. The advocacy duty should be considered and it is likely that a referral would be appropriate to ensure that the young carer's involvement in the process is maximised.

Any information gathered must be enhanced at such time when the young carer is involved, and all information sharing should give regard to confidentiality.

Depending on the circumstances consideration should also be given to raising a children's safeguarding concern.

The Care Act is clear that you should not ask the young carer (or anybody that you consult with for the purpose of assessment) to repeat information that has already been made available to you unless there is a valid reason for doing so. For example, if you have not understood the information and want to clarify the meaning behind it then it may be appropriate to ask for it to be repeated, summarised or clarified.

Before continuing or beginning to carry out the young carer's assessment you should take some time to read through the information that is already available for the purposes of:

  1. Understanding it; and
  2. Thinking about how it should inform the assessment process.

Existing sources of information may be available via:

  1. Referral forms;
  2. Recordings of any contact made;
  3. Letters, texts and emails;
  4. A confidential conversation with a colleague or manager who is familiar with the young carer;
  5. Reports from professionals (for example a Speech and Language Therapist, Psychologist or Teacher);
  6. Records relating to current or historical safeguarding enquiries or concerns; or
  7. Existing or historical assessment reports, review reports or Support Plans.

All information gathering and sharing should be carried out with regard to the Caldicott Principles, Data Protection Legislation and local information sharing policies.

You may need to speak to the young carer in advance of arranging their assessment in order to gather or clarify any information.

You will need to make a decision about the best way to do this based upon:

  1. The young carer's age and ability to understand the information to be provided;
  2. The likely impact of the information on the young carer's Wellbeing; and
  3. The views of the young carer's parents about the best way to communicate the information to the young carer.

You may also need to speak to the young carer's parents in advance of arranging the assessment. This can be done with or without the young carer's consent.

In addition, you may identify a benefit in gathering information and consulting with others. See: Gathering Information and Consulting with Others.

Legally you must have regard to the following when arranging a young carer's assessment:

  1. The young carer's views and wishes about when and how the assessment is carried out, including who they would like to support them;
  2. The young carer's parents views about when and how the assessment is carried out;
  3. The impact of any delay in assessment on their individual Wellbeing; and
  4. Whether any information and advice can be given to the young carer (and their parents) that will prevent, delay or reduce the need for Support.

The timing of the assessment should be agreed with the young carer (and their parents) and anyone else who is to be involved in it.

Significant benefit

The Care Act statutory guidance states that a young carer's assessment must be carried out when it is of 'significant benefit' to the young carer to do so.

Significant benefit will generally be had at the point when any needs for Support the young carer may have as an adult can be predicted reasonably confidently. This should have already been determined at the point of contact or referral.

A range of other factors will also determine whether the timing of the assessment is of significant benefit, including:

  1. The stage the young carer has reached at school and any upcoming exams;
  2. The time it may take to carry out an assessment;
  3. The time it may take to plan and put in place the adult Support;
  4. Any relevant family circumstances; and
  5. Any planned medical treatment.

General considerations

Any assessment should be carried out over an appropriate and reasonable timeframe taking into account the urgency of the needs or situation and consideration of any fluctuating needs. This means that arbitrary timeframes (fixed timeframes that apply to all) should be avoided and a more flexible approach taken that reflects the needs of the young carer and their situation.

You should also take into account the following:

  1. The level of risk to the young carer;
  2. The intensity and frequency of the support the young carer provides;
  3. The level of support currently being provided to the young carer and the sustainability/effectiveness of this;
  4. The urgency and likelihood of deterioration;
  5. Any clear indication of timeframe provided within any referral or recorded contact; and
  6. Whether the young carer will need the support of an independent advocate and the time it may take to arrange this.

Arrangements should be made with the young carer and their parents. The method of communication should reflect that requested by the young carer (and their parents) and any specific communication needs they may have.

For the purposes of the Care Act communication about the assessment is subject to the same requirements as the provision of information and advice, and the duty to make it accessible therefore applies equally.

See: How to Provide Information and Advice to read more about how to provide information in an accessible way under the Care Act.

In all cases where communication has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the young carer (and their parents) as a formal record.

The most important thing you must consider when arranging the assessment is how you will maximise the involvement of the young carer. Some of the things you should think about include:

  1. Whether the young carer will require independent advocacy;
  2. Whether the young carer will find any assessment process to be emotionally difficult and what can be done to reduce their anxiety;
  3. Whether the timing of the assessment is of significant benefit to the young carer;
  4. The information the young carer (their parents and any carers) may need to prepare for the assessment;
  5. Whether the young carer (or their parents and any carers) would like for anyone in particular to be involved in any assessment;
  6. Which environment would be best to meet in (if a meeting is to be arranged); and
  7. Whether the assessment needs to consider any physical needs the young carer (or their parent) has for medication or rest.

Under the Care Act you must provide specific information to the young carer as early as possible for the purpose of maximising their involvement in the assessment and any subsequent Care and Support processes. All of the information must also be provided to the young carer's parents and any other person representing them (for example an advocate).

Wherever practical the information must be provided before the assessment process begins.

Any information must be provided in an accessible way for the person who will be receiving it (young carer or parent). In all cases where information has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the information provided should be sent to the young carer (and parent).

The information that must be provided is as follows:

  1. Information about what can be expected during the assessment process;
  2. The format that the assessment will take (e.g. telephone assessment, face-to-face assessment);
  3. The indicative timeframe for assessment (when will it begin and how long is it likely to take);
  4. The complaints process; and
  5. Information about possible access to independent advocacy.

You must also provide a list of any questions that you intend to ask of the young carer during the assessment. This will help them to prepare for the assessment and to think about their Wellbeing, the impact of their needs on this and what outcomes they want to achieve.

Financial assessment is often a key point of anxiety and it is important that you are able to provide good information and advice (either directly or by supporting the young carer and their parents to access it from an appropriate person or source).

Before providing this information and advice you should confirm current local policy in regards to the financial assessment of carers.

If the need for independent advocacy has not already been established at contact or referral then this should become clear when either arranging the assessment or providing information about it. As soon as this is established you must consider whether the duty to make independent advocacy applies and, if so make the necessary arrangements.

See: Using Independent Advocacy, which includes guidance on how to establish whether a young carer needs an advocate, the different advocates that are available and how to make a referral.

Aside from the young carer themselves you are required to involve:

  1. The parents of the young carer;
  2. Anyone other person with parental responsibility.

You are also required to involve:

  1. Anyone the young carer asks you to involve;
  2. Anyone a parent asks you to involve.

Other people may involved in the young carer's assessment when:

  1. The young carer has consented to the involvement of another person;
  2. The young carer will be using independent advocacy; or
  3. The young carer is under 16, lacks competence and a person with parental responsibility has consented to involve another person.

The Care Act is clear that a whole family approach to assessment should be taken wherever possible. This means that you should establish who relevant family members are and arrange for them to be involved in the assessment when:

  1. The young carer consents; or
  2. The young carer is under 16, lacks competence and a person with parental responsibility consents.

Relevant family members include anyone living with the young carer, including older adults and any siblings, including younger children. It can also include family members who are not living with the young carer, but who are still involved or interested in the young carer's wellbeing.

The young carer's parents should be prepared in the same way and given the same information as the young carer.

The information that must be provided is as follows:

  1. Information about what can be expected during the assessment process;
  2. The format that the assessment will take (e.g. telephone assessment, face-to-face assessment);
  3. The indicative timeframe for assessment (when will it begin and how long is it likely to take);
  4. Information about financial assessment;
  5. The complaints process; and
  6. Information about possible access to independent advocacy.

You must also provide a list of any questions that you intend to ask of the young carer during the assessment. This will help parents to prepare themselves and the young carer to for the assessment and to think about Wellbeing, the impact on needs and outcomes.

The needs of parents to maximise their involvement should also be considered, but this should not be at the detriment of maximising the young carer's own involvement.

It is important that everyone who is to be involved in the assessment is aware of:

  1. The purpose of the assessment;
  2. The process of assessment; and
  3. Their role in any assessment.

The needs of others involved in the assessment should also be considered, but this should not be at the detriment of maximising the young carer's own involvement.

If a person has a role in the assessment process but is not able to physically attend any planned meeting it is possible under the Care Act to consult with them separately and still include their views in any assessment and decision making processes.

Under the Care Act anyone with parental responsibility must be involved in the assessment because parental responsibility applies until the young carer is 18. This is the case whether the young carer consents to their involvement or not.

Maximising the young carer's involvement

Sometimes the relationship that the young carer has with their parent (or the relationship that parents have with each other) may not maximise the involvement of the young carer in the assessment process. For example:

  1. The young carer may become overly distracted by their presence;
  2. The young carer may become distressed at their presence;
  3. Parents may be estranged and there is a high risk of conflict during meetings.

You have a duty to maximise the involvement of the young carer so will need to consider any adjustments you need to make to the planned process.

Examples of adjustments could include:

  1. Holding separate meetings with each parent;
  2. Meeting with the young carer without the parent's presence;
  3. Involving a parent via consultation only; and
  4. Involving the parent in some aspects of the assessment but not others.

The Care Act recognises a whole host of different methods of assessment, any of which could be appropriate so long as:

  1. The young carer's involvement is maximised by the method;
  2. The method is appropriate and proportionate to the needs and circumstances of the young carer;
  3. The method will provide a full picture of the young carer's needs now;
  4. The method will provide a full picture of the young carer's likely needs when they turn 18, in regard to the impact that those needs have on their Wellbeing; so that
  5. The Local Authority can provide an appropriate response at that time and plan the transition to adult Care and Support.

Possible assessment methods include:

  1. Face to face assessment;
  2. Telephone assessment;
  3. Online assessment;
  4. Combined assessment (with a carer);
  5. Joint or integrated assessment;
  6. Supported self assessment; and
  7. Delegated assessment.

To access the Care Act definitions for each of the above assessment methods, see: Methods of Assessment, part of the Care Act 2014.

A young carer's assessment can be carried out under the Care Act as a combined assessment at the same time as any needs assessment, so long as:

  1. It is deemed appropriate to do so (for example both parties involvement can still be maximised and there is no conflict between the parties);
  2. Both the young carer and the person/young person with Care and Support needs agree to a combined assessment process and the sharing of information; or
  3. The person/young person with Care and Support needs is over 16, lacks capacity to agree but a best interest decision is made to carry out a combined assessment;
  4. The young person or the young carer is under 16, lacks competence and a person with parental responsibility consents.

When making a decision about the method of assessment you must have regard to:

  1. The wishes and preferences of the young carer;
  2. The wishes and preferences of the young carer's parents;
  3. The outcome the young carer (and their parent/s) seeks from the assessment; and
  4. The frequency and intensity of the support the young carer provides.

Some of the other factors that should be considered include:

  1. Availability of a particular assessment method;
  2. Whether carrying out a combined assessment process would be beneficial;
  3. Whether the method of assessment chosen poses any challenges or risks for the young carer;
  4. The specific communication needs of the young carer (specifically whether they will be able to engage in the assessment method);
  5. The potential fluctuation of the young carers needs or situation; and
  6. Any need for multidisciplinary working or assessment.

Using a tool to support the process of establishing needs or formal assessment can be useful for all involved. If you are going to use a tool you should endeavour to provide this to the young carer (or whoever will be supporting them) before the assessment is scheduled to take place.

See: Tools and Practice Guidance to Establish Needs.

Sometimes there may be a clear benefit to a joint assessment with another service area, team or professional. The Care Act recognises this and permits the Local Authority to make any arrangements it deems appropriate in order to facilitate joint working with others.

There is an expectation under the Care Act that children's and adult's services will work together whenever the young carer is known to both. Working together involves:

  1. Sharing information;
  2. Carrying out joined up processes wherever possible, such as review; and
  3. Agreeing and making seamless arrangements for the transition of support.

Where the Local Authority requests another person to work jointly in some way to benefit the young carer that person has a duty to co-operate with the request (unless by doing so they will be prevented from carrying out their own duties under the Care Act or other legislation).

For further information about the duty to co-operate under the Care Act, see: Co-Operation.

Any decision to request joint work should be made with the young carer (and their parents).

Joint work requests should be made in the manner preferred by the service or team to which the request is being made. This may or may not take the form of a referral.

The request should explain clearly the nature of the joint work required and any specific skills, knowledge and competence requirements of the practitioner to support allocation.

If you have been asked to work jointly with a colleague in adult Care and Support, children's services or in another organisation (such as health or housing) you should contact the person you will be working jointly with to confirm your involvement and discuss the most effective way to work together. The things you should establish include:

  1. The work they are doing/will be doing/have done and whether they have any information that you need to know or can use to avoid duplication;
  2. Whether there are opportunities to co-ordinate systems and processes and, if so how this will be managed;
  3. What the expectations are in terms of joint-working (for example will you be expected to carry out a joint assessment, meet with the young carer together, produce joint records or just consult and share information);
  4. What the anticipated outcome of the joint work is (for example on-going joint-work to monitor);
  5. What does the young carer (and their parents) know about the joint-work to be carried out (and if they don't know who and how should this be explained);
  6. Who will be the primary contact for the young carer (and their parents) to go to with any queries; and
  7. Who will be responsible for communicating progress and decisions to the young carer (and their parents).

See: Joint Work for further practice guidance about effective joint working.

The young carer's assessment should never be carried out as an assessment to meet an urgent need.

If the assessment is deemed urgent because the young carer has unmet needs you should refer to children's services procedures and the appropriate assessment under the Children Act 1989 or the Children and Families Act 2014 should be carried out.

If the assessment is deemed urgent because the young carer is nearing the point of transition you must agree with the young carer and their parents:

  1. Whether to arrange the assessment and carry it out in a timely way as per these procedures; or
  2. Whether to arrange for an adult carer's assessment to be carried out instead.

If the young carer is already receiving support under the Children Act 1989 or the Children and Families Act 2014 this support must continue until the point that their needs have been established under the Care Act, an eligibility determination reached and any adult Care and Support services arranged. This is the case even if the young carer becomes 18 during that time.

Last Updated: November 3, 2021

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