Our Legal Entitlements and Problem-Solving (LEaP) Project has received a request from a parent explaining that her local authority has denied her the opportunity to have a separate Parent Carers Needs Assessment (PCNA). We have summarised the situation regarding PCNAs in England and Wales below however you can read more detailed information in our Parent Guides (Social Care in England and Social Care in Wales).
In England, a PCNA can be carried out at the same time as an assessment of your child’s own needs. The PCNA must include an assessment of whether it is appropriate for you to provide (or to continue to provide) care for your child in the light of your needs for support, as well as your other needs and wishes, for instance whether you want to take part in any education, training or recreation activities. When it carries out your PCNA, the local authority must involve you, any child you have parental responsibility for, and any other person you ask them to speak to (e.g. other family members). S17 of the Children Act 1989 does not specify how an assessment should take place and therefore the local authority can, in theory, carry out a separate assessment of a parent carer’s needs. The Working Together guidance gives emphasis to assessments adopting a ‘whole family approach’ however there should not be a blanket policy stating that they will always combine assessments
In Wales, where it appears to a local authority that a carer may have needs for support then the authority must carry out an assessment of the carer. This duty to assess applies regardless of the authority’s view of the level of the carer’s need for support or their financial situation. In carrying out a carer’s assessment, the local authority must involve you, any child for whom you have parental responsibility, and any other person you ask them to involve (e.g. other family members). A local authority may combine a carer’s assessment with the assessment of a disabled child, but only where both consent to this. The only exception to this is for children under the age of 16 where an assessment can be combined if the authority is satisfied that ‘combining the needs assessment would be consistent with the child’s well-being’. Local authorities must display flexibility on this question and pay particular attention to the needs of parent carers for whom a separate assessment may well be beneficial in most cases. It would be unlawful for an authority to adopt a rigid rule of always combining assessments.
If you have been denied a PCNA or been forced to have your assessment combined with your child’s, we would like to hear from you. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide direct support or information on all issues at this stage: we are simply conducting research in the first instance to see how widespread the problem is. Please email our LEaP Co-ordinator at [email protected] with details of your experience including the name of your local authority.