Information from local councils about care and funding

This page covers:

• Good experiences of help from councils in arranging care, benefits and accessing local support groups
• Bad experiences such as being given very little or unhelpful information
• Special circumstances such as moving to or living in a different council

For many people, a logical starting point when they or a relative begins to struggle at home and need some help is their GP. But GPs are part of the NHS and social care is the responsibility of local councils, so the local council adult social care department is a better place to go for advice. Sarah said she had asked her GP about a social care assessment for her parents but the GP told her he didn’t know anything about the process and she needed to contact her local council. If someone starts searching for care because of a recommendation from a health professional like a doctor or nurse, or during a stay in hospital, then it’s worth asking that health professional for help on where to go to find out more. But a good rule of thumb is to start with the local council adult social care department.

Many of the people we spoke to had asked their local council for advice. People told us about very good experiences but also some that were not so good. A common experience was that once the local council knew that the person was going to be paying for their care themselves, they backed off and did not give much help. People used words like alone, abandoned and invisible to describe how this made them feel.

Nadera believes advancement in medical technologies, such as keyhole surgery, are beneficial but there should be less focus on using drugs to cure illness and more on simple approaches taken from nature.

Age at interview 39

Gender Female

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Local councils often gave people lists of home care agencies or care homes and suggested they ring round or visit them to decide which one they wanted. Some people described this type of information as very helpful and they were happy to choose an agency or care home themselves. Others described it as unhelpful and found it hard to choose an agency or care home when they had no experience to go on.

Lucy takes part in a study in which researchers count her moles and freckles. This made her uncomfortable when she was a teenager with acne, though she never said this to the researchers.

Age at interview 30

Gender Female

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Some people told us that they had not gone to their local council for help but felt re-assured that the council was there to help them with information or a needs assessment if they needed it. A few people said they had not contacted their local council because they were coping alright and were not sure what the council could do to help.

The people we spoke to talked about the good experiences they had had with their local councils and the types of things the councils helped with. Some people told us about their councils arranging equipment such as wheelchairs, raised toilet seats and beds, downstairs showers and ramps; assessing people’s entitlements to benefits; and providing information about local support groups for carers. Simon described the help from his local council as ‘fabulous’. Even though he paid for the care, the council had arranged it, which made it cheaper than if he had arranged it himself. Other people told us how the council had helped in discussions with care providers.

As well as these good experiences, people complained to us that council departments were quite disjointed. They told us that although social workers and other staff were often experts in their own areas, no one seemed to know the whole system. That meant that one member of staff was not able to answer all of someone’s questions and they were often having to go back to the office to check. People found that lots of social workers worked part-time so were not always available. Weekends were particularly difficult and this caused problems for family members who cared for their parents but lived some distance away and worked full time as they could only make arrangements at weekends.

Barbara hopes the birth cohort study she is in will help future generations, and it also gives her a sort of MOT of her health.

Age at interview 73

Gender Female

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A very important issue for a few people was what would happen if the person paying for care moved from one local council area to another. This was especially important if the person’s money running low and they would become eligible for local council-funded care. Some councils pay more than others towards care and if a person is already getting council funding for permanent residential care before they move, that same council keeps paying after they move.

The big worry was moving from a council in a cheaper area of the country to a more expensive one. Jacky’s mum was in this situation and Jacky wanted to know if it was better for her mum to move closer to her before or after her mum’s money ran out. Jacky asked her own local council in the south of England and her mum’s in the north for advice but it took a long time to get a clear answer. Moving to a more expensive area could also mean that money from selling a property might run out quicker.

Emily has taken part in a number of medical studies. She thinks the specifics of the study should be clearer in the written leaflets, and then she could skim the more generic material. She also thinks the documents need to be carefully proofread.

Age at interview 68

Gender Female

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People had ups and downs in their experiences of asking local councils for advice. Some people told us they would have liked more help and advice and sometimes felt that being overworked was used as an excuse by social workers and other staff not to help out more. However, many people understood how busy social workers and their local adult social care departments were and gave positive stories of social workers being unexpectedly good.