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Care for those with learning disabilities

Updated 03 December 2020

3min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

If you have learning difficulties or a disability that makes some everyday tasks more challenging, there is support available to help you live independently. You may be able to get council funding for some of your care.

How do I know if I need care?

People with learning difficulties or conditions such as Down’s syndrome, autism, Williams syndrome and many others, often find it helpful to have some level of support for performing daily activities. Broadly, having a learning disability means the person has more than usual difficulty in one or more areas such as understanding, remembering, learning, communicating, interacting socially, or carrying out certain physical tasks. Any of these can affect your ability to live independently, to a greater or lesser degree.

As children with learning disabilities grow up and reach adulthood, they may be anxious to attain at least some independence away from their families. Equally, families who have cared for children with such disabilities may find it more of a challenge when they grow up. If the parents are elderly, they may even find that their children are having to care for them in return to some extent – and it can be hard to tell when this starts to happen.

It’s not always easy to know whether you need care or not, or what the benefits might be. To help you decide if you need support of some kind, you can have a care needs assessment from your local authority.

What is a care needs assessment?

A care needs assessment is carried out by the social care and health department of your local authority, and aims to find out whether you need some form of care or support. It can also determine whether or not this can be funded by the council (the assessment itself is free of charge).

Your input here is very important: you’ll be asked about what you find difficult, what challenges you face day-to-day, and what you would prefer your lifestyle to be like. They need to build up a clear picture of your needs, so be as direct and honest as you can be.

If you are acting on behalf of someone who may need care but isn’t fully able to represent themselves at the care needs assessment, you can accompany them and answer questions as necessary.

What kind of care is available for people with learning disabilities?

Care can anything from a care worker visiting a few times a week to 24/7 residential care. The priority is to find the form of care that is most in line with your best interests and wellbeing.

Once your care needs assessment has concluded, your social worker or occupational therapist will create a written care plan that outlines the recommendations for you and the next steps to be taken. You should feel that you are fully involved in the creation of your own care plan, and should speak out at this point if anything in the plan doesn’t seem right to you.

Will I have to pay for my care?

Depending on your needs and personal circumstances, you may have to pay for some or all of your care. Using your care needs assessment, the local authority will check to see if you meet the national minimum eligibility criteria for care. If you do, the council needs to offer care that meets your needs.

The second assessment is a means test that looks at your income, savings and assets to decide how much you can afford to spend towards your care. If you don’t have the means to fund it yourself, you should be eligible for council funding. Find out more about help with paying for care.

I care for someone with a disability. Can I get support?

If you care for someone else, whether full time or part time, you may be able to get some extra help from a care provider to give you a break and to make sure you too can stay active and healthy. You can have a carer’s assessment from the local authority, which will look at how being a carer impacts your own life and goals, such as being able to work, study or simply have more social life or downtime. If you are eligible, the council can help fund this extra support. This assistance can come in a variety of forms; for example, a care worker from social services might take over some of your responsibilities, or you could put the funding towards a care worker of your choice to provide respite care while you take time off.

How do I go about getting care?

Once you have decided what care you need and what funding is available, you can start looking for the most suitable providers. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is an independent regulator of care providers that reviews every provider of care and healthcare in England. You can look at the ratings and read the reviews online to help you make your choice. All of the care providers available through Unbiased are rated Good or Outstanding by the CQC.


About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.