Social care assessments, benefit assessments, equipment assessments, adaptations assessments… if you need it, you’ll be assessed for it. This can be a long, boring and stressful process, as the paperwork can be unnecessarily complicated and the outcome is important to you. Simon Stevens takes us through his top survival tips.
What is an assessment?
An assessment is a written or typed snapshot of your current situation to determine whether you fit the eligibility for specific benefits or types of social care and other services. An assessment is only based on the information provided by yourself or obtained by observation at a specific period in time.
This does not mean you not met the relevant criteria before or after that specific assessment. It is important for your own emotional wellbeing to assume that any assessment is being conducted in good faith, despite what you may hear from the media. Those who are assessing you are human beings themselves who want to do their best in their work. You should base your conclusions on how well an assessment has been conducted based on your own experiences without making presumptions.
Preparing for an assessment
Before any face to face assessment, you are likely to have one or more forms to fill in. On these forms, as well as at the assessment, you should provide as much factual and relevant information as you can provide to open questions. If there aren’t any forms, but you know that you have a lot to tell the assessor, make a few notes beforehand.
Never assume that the assessor understands how any condition may specifically affect you and what you need – labels aren’t enough as everyone’s experiences are different.
It is also important to understand that terms like ‘severe’ are relative, and so an assessor may not see how you feel something affects you in the same way. Therefore, describe the effects of your difficulties in terms of the activities they affect and how. Be as factual as you can, and understand an assessor may not be interested in how a difficulty makes you ‘feel’, as this is not part of their role. If something is difficult to explain, show them. For example, if your grip on an everyday object is not strong or steady, and you need support to do something with that object, show the social worker what happens with or without support [so long as it is safe to do so].
In describing how any difficulty affects you, always make it clear that any day could be a “bad day”, and explain in detail what that means for you.
The main event
If you need to travel to an assessment, ensure you can arrive on time. If you arrive too early, it is good to establish where the place is before going for a coffee etc.
If you are having an assessment in your own home, ensure you have a quiet area for the meeting and enough chairs for everyone. It can be nice to break the ice by offering the assessor a drink if you are able to. Ensure the state of your home represents how it would normally be if you had less important visitors coming as the state of your home could be an indication of your difficulties, or your relationship with current support providers.
It is normal practice for you to be permitted to have someone with you at the assessment like a family member, friend, member of staff, formal advocate etc. It is important this person understands the role you wish them to have in the assessment and that they do not take over if you do not wish them to.
While you could refuse to perform a physical or other activity requested by the assessor, it is more helpful to give it a try, explaining any pain or other difficulties you are having while doing so. Your idea of what you can or cannot do may differ from what the assessor can observe.
It is important to regard the assessor as a friendly person equal to yourself, and offer them the same respect you would offer anyone else you have just met. If you are hostile to the assessor, they will have reason to be hostile back. Remember that the assessment is just their job and it is not personal for them.
If you wish to end the assessment early for any reason, for example if you are too tired, became unwell, or feel intimidated, then explain politely how you are feeling and ask for the assessment to be rescheduled.
Making an appeal
An assessment may not always provide a result you think is reasonable, and so you may wish to appeal any decision made. Appeals are a normal part of the system, as assessments cannot always gather all the information require for an accurate decision to be made.
In order to make a successful appeal, you need to demonstrate specific information was not properly considered, or that information was inaccurately gathered or recorded. This means you need to carefully examine any report provided from the assessment to spot anything you disagree with. It is important to stick with the facts and not opinions.
An appeal can only look at your situation at the time of the assessment. If you feel your situation has changed since your last assessment enough to warrant a decision change then you should ask for another assessment.
By Simon Stevens