Help for carers from adult social care

The adult social care service at your local council can offer practical and emotional support. They can direct you to many other support services in your local community.

Support from adult social care

There are many ways the adult social care service at your local council can help you, and the person with cancer you look after. 

You may talk to a social worker. A social worker can assess the practical, financial and social help you and the person you look after need. They are also trained in offering emotional support.

Some social workers are based in hospitals or hospices. The GP, cancer doctor, or a nurse involved in the person’s care can usually arrange a referral for a social worker.

Getting a needs assessment

Before the person with cancer you look after can get help, they should have a needs assessment. To ask for a needs assessment, contact the adult social care service at your local council. You can call them, or do it online.

A social worker or occupational therapist usually does the assessment as a home visit. Sometimes they do it by phone. They ask the person you look after how they manage everyday activities, like washing, dressing and preparing meals. An assessment of the house might also be needed.

What happens during a needs assessment

It is important the person you look after gives as much information as possible. It may help to talk about everyday activities and write down things that they find difficult. You should do this before the assessment.

An assessor should ask if there is anything that could make communicating easier, such as an interpreter. If the person you look after finds communicating difficult, you can speak for them, if they wish. You can also take notes during the assessment.

The assessment should include:

  • Personal information and preferences
    • how the person you care for likes to be addressed and identified
    • their preferred name
    • their life, family, friends and pets
    • where they live and who they live with.

    It should try to support their independence and interests. They should be involved in decisions as much as they can, and listened to with respect.

  • Personal needs

    The assessment should recognise the needs based on their:

    • age
    • abilities
    • gender identity
    • sexuality
    • religion, culture and beliefs.

    It should consider advice from other organisations with expertise in order to provide services that can meet these needs. It should also look at how cultural and religious needs might affect:

    • the clothing they want
    • how they like personal care to be given
    • treatment decisions
    • food choices.

What happens after a needs assessment

If services are needed urgently, you may be contacted within 24 hours. If needs are less urgent, it can take 1 week or sometimes more. The assessor will keep you updated.

Help can be provided by adult social care services or arranged with other organisations such as charities. It might also include what care and support will be provided by you and other friends, family members and neighbours. It might explain:

  • what information will be shared
  • why other things are kept confidential
  • what this means for the best interests of the person you look after.

It is important that you understand the results of the assessment and why decisions were made. If there is anything you are concerned or unsure about, ask the assessor.

Services might include:

  • meals at home – such as meals on wheels
  • a laundry service for people with incontinence
  • equipment to help with daily activities
  • changes (adaptations) to the house to help with daily activities
  • advice about benefits you are entitled to
  • someone to sit with the person you are caring for, to give you some time for yourself – this is called sitting services 
  • care for the person you are caring for, to give you a break – this is called respite care.

How care is paid for

Some services are paid for by the NHS or the local council and are free. But the person you look after may need to pay for other services. They will have a financial assessment (means test) to see if they have to pay anything.

A means test is done by a financial assessment officer from the council. They ask about the finances of the person being assessed. This includes:

  • money earned through work
  • pensions
  • benefits
  • savings
  • property.

If the person you look after is having a means test, they will need to have bank statements and other paperwork available.

If the council is paying towards the cost of care for the person you look after, there are 2 ways this can be done:

  • The council makes direct payments into their bank account each month for you to organise care services yourself. The account may be set up especially for direct payments.
  • The council can help you choose care providers and manage the budget. The council organises care and sends the person you look after a regular bill to pay towards those costs.

Ask your local council for more information about means testing and direct payments. You can also visit or the NHS website.

There are situations where care is paid for by the NHS. They can provide care called reablement. This can last up to 6 weeks and is care for someone after an illness or hospital discharge. We explain more about reablement in our information about going home from hospital.

If the person you look after needs a lot of ongoing care in their own home, they may be able to get NHS Continuing Health Care (CHC). This care is paid for by the NHS. It is for people with complicated and serious medical needs. Your healthcare team can tell you about this.

Getting a carer’s assessment

If you look after someone, you can ask the adult social care services at your local council for an assessment of your needs to see what might help you. This is called a carer’s assessment.

You can telephone or apply online. You can find out more about carers’ assessments and find your local council adult social care service on the NHS website.

Any adult who cares for another adult can ask for one. You can have this even if the person you are caring for:

  • has not had a needs assessment
  • has had a needs assessment but did not qualify for support.

What happens during a carer’s assessment

The assessment might be in person, by phone or online. Someone employed by the council will ask how you are coping with caring. This includes the effects on your:

  • physical and emotional health
  • work
  • free time
  • relationships.

It is important to be honest about how caring affects you. If the council understands your needs, they are more likely to offer the right support. You can have someone with you during the assessment.

What happens after a carer’s assessment

After the assessment, the council will write and tell you if you qualify for support. If you do, they will explain how they can help.

The council may be able to help with costs, but you might need to have a financial assessment (means test) first. You might also be entitled to benefits, such as Carer's Allowance.

The carer’s assessment might recommend services such as:

  • someone to sit with the person you are caring for, to give you some time for yourself – this is called a sitting service 
  • care for the person you are caring for, to give you a break – this is called respite care
  • help with housework or gardening
  • attending a gym or exercise class
  • a direct payment that you can spend on doing something just for you, so you can relax
  • information about local carer support groups.

Home care service

You may get help from care workers to support you and the person you look after. This is called home care services. This gives you a break and helps you feel less tired. Care workers may also be called personal assistants or home helps, depending on where you are in the UK.

Care workers may do certain jobs around the house, or sit with the person to give you a break. Services can include:

  • cleaning
  • washing
  • cooking
  • shopping.

They may also provide personal care, such as washing and dressing.

Your local adult social care service or the Carers Trust can tell you what is available in your area and any costs involved.

You can use a home care agency to find a carer. The carer is directly employed by the agency, so they cover their training and supervision. These agencies are inspected and regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). You can search for local agencies and read inspection reports on the CQC website.

If you need help with cleaning, you could also contact a cleaning agency. Ask friends or neighbours if they know of any. Or you could look for adverts in a local newspaper or online. It is a good idea to contact a few to check if they meet your needs and to compare costs.

Meals at home service

It may be possible for the person you look after to have meals provided at home. This is sometimes called meals on wheels. This service usually has to be paid for. It may be provided by a private company or the local council. A social worker can arrange meals on wheels or another meals at home service.

The organisations can provide meals for different cultural and religious needs or for any dietary requirements. They are prepared to national guidelines and are designed to provide a balanced diet.

Meals on wheels is generally a delivery of a hot meal around lunchtime. They can also provide a sandwich and cold dessert for later in the day.

Some providers offer frozen meals. This means they can deliver more meals at once, and can deliver them at any time. The driver puts them in your freezer for you to heat up later in the oven or microwave.

Laundry service

If you are looking after someone who has problems with leaking from the bladder or bowel (incontinence), your local adult social care service may be able to provide a laundry service. Or you may be able to get a grant towards laundry costs.

They may do a needs assessment to find out what is needed. Ask the district nurse, GP or social worker about this.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our looking after someone with cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Supporting adult carers committee. Supporting Adult Carers: NICE guideline [NG150] Published: 22 January 2020. Available from (accessed May 2022)

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. People's experience in adult social care services committee. People's experience in adult social care services: improving the experience of care and support for people using adult social care services: NICE guideline [NG86] Published: 20 February 2018. Available from (accessed May 2022)

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 April 2023
Next review: 01 April 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.