Who does what - how the system works
When confronted with the maze of organisations which offer services, it is helpful to think in terms of two sectors.
It is also helpful to be aware of the distinction between assessment and provision of services. "Assessment" is about identifying what a person's needs are and then determining how those needs are best addressed. Many public/statutory bodies (such as local authorities) have key legal obligations to assess people's needs and then look for the right services to meet those needs. If you are looking for care and support for a particular individual, often the most important thing to do is to find out who can assess the individual's needs and then check to make sure that the assessment duly takes place. Additionally services are also provided by voluntary and private organisations - such as residential homes, housing associations, homecare firms, employment agencies, counselling organisations, helplines and hotlines, day centres, nursing homes etc.
Getting help... obtaining an assessment and accessing services
It is possible to make a direct approach to many of the organisations listed elsewhere on this website. They may be able to offer a service, or at least information. However, generally speaking it is important to ensure that an individual / family in need get a proper assessment first. For most categories of people in need, whether adults or children, the central route of assessment is though the Social Services Department of the local authority (Council), and these departments where appropriate will work very closely together with the NHS. These two types of agency cover almost every type of care and support other than in-patient, hospital services.
Increasingly, Social Services and the NHS aim to work as one unified team. Between them, they employ a vast range of professionals who have key responsibilities under the law to identify the needs of different types of people requiring help and support. These groups include:
Local authorities' responsibilities also include Housing Departments that find accommodation for homeless people and assess people's entitlement to a range of specialist sheltered accommodation for individuals with "special needs".
Finally, if what is being looked for is financial support in the shape of benefits or allowances, then the most important role is played by Jobcentre Plus which is part of the government's Department of Work and Pensions. This Department is responsible for delivering support and advice to:
Getting the vocabulary right
When trying to find support or care for someone it's worth having the right vocabulary at one's fingertips. For example, being "worried" about someone may not be as effective as stating that one is ringing to "make a referral." Basically, "making a referral" simply means informing an agency about someone in need. In any event, being ready with the right form of words often makes things move more quickly.
Here are some key terms to be aware of: