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Getting help for carers

People do not always recognise themselves as carers, and if not pointed in the right direction, they could miss out on help and support that may be of great benefit to them.

The first step towards getting advice and support is to contact a Carer Coordinator.

The Coordinator that you should contact will be the one in the Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust area that the person you care for lives in.

Contact the local HSC Trust and ask them for information on a carer’s assessment or a carer’s support plan meeting, if you have not already been offered this.

Trust details for Carers

Carers’ Information (Belfast Trust)

Carers’ Information (Northern Trust)

Carers’ Information (South Eastern Trust)

Carers’ Information (Southern Trust)

Carers’ Information (Western Trust)

The next step towards receiving help or support is a meeting with a member of staff from the HSC Trust. This is called a ‘carer’s assessment’ or ‘support plan.

Carer’s Assessment and Support Plan

A carer’s assessment also known as a support plan can help you in your caring role.

The plan is for the you ‘the carer’ and your needs, not the needs of the person you care for. It is not a test of the your ability to provide care.

As a carer you have the right to have your needs assessed to see what the HSC Trust can do to help support you in your caring role.

The Benefits

Support planning can make a real difference; your role will be recognised and it can help link you to support which enables you to keep on caring.

A support plan meeting is a time for you to think about your own health and wellbeing needs and the impact that caring is having on you.

Carers’ Experiences

Some carers can feel the process of meeting with HSC Trust staff, or indeed the idea of an ‘assessment’, quite daunting.

It might feel like your ability to care is being tested or scrutinised. The support planning process is intended to be informal and should take the form of a structured conversation where your strengths and needs are identified.

During support planning HSC Trust staff (usually a social worker or care manager) will arrange to meet and discuss support with you.

Support provided through these plans will be different for each carer – support does not always have to mean ‘formal’ services – it could be attending events or activities run in the local community, or linking ups with other carers for mutual support.

You will have a chance to talk openly and confidentially about:

  • the care you provide.
  • how caring affects your own physical and emotional health.
  • what you find difficult and challenging.
  • concerns you have for the future.
  • what support you may need to continue caring.

Your personal Carer’s Support Plan will be drawn up in partnership with you. It will be reviewed regularly to ensure that your support needs are still being met.

You will be given a copy of your Support Plan, which will include:

  • a record the decisions made in your meeting.
  • details of any services agreed.

If the demands of your caring role change, you can ask for a re-assessment at any time.

Types of support

There is a range of support available to help carers.

Support Groups

Each Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust has a Carers’ Support Group. There may be other similar groups in your local area organised by the community and voluntary sector.


HSC Trusts can arrange for various levels and types of training to be delivered for carers. This may be for practical issues such as manual handling or infection control, or for training around complex conditions such as dementia or mental health. Training on specific issues such as managing challenging behaviour can also be provided.

Short Breaks

A Short Break, previously called ‘respite’ is the provision of regular, occasional or emergency time limited carer breaks. Short Break care comes in different forms to meet various needs. The type of a Short Break depends upon individual circumstances and the setting in which it is provided.

Self Directed Support (SDS)

Self Directed Support enables individuals to choose how their support is provided and gives them and their carer as much control as they want over an agreed ‘Personal Budget’ to meet their needs.

Direct Payments

Direct Payments allow HSC Trusts make regular direct cash payments to carers, via their bank account, in lieu of carers’ services they have been assessed as necessary by the HSC Trust. Carers can then use this money to purchase and organise support for themselves, without HSC Trust involvement.

Cash Grants

Unlike Direct Payments, cash grants are usually small, one off payments made by a Trust to a carer to provide an agreed support or element of Short Break, for example a one-off complementary therapy session.

Further Information

nidirect – Caring for someone

nidirect – Caring for someone with dementia

nidirect – Caring for a child with disabilities

Carers NI

Carers Trust


Action for Children

Barnardo’s Northern Ireland

Citizens Advice Northern Ireland

Department of Health

Family Support NI