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How to assess a person-in-need and provide appropriate support

Ensuring you understand a person's situation will mean you can assess their needs and provide the most appropriate support
Homeless man in sleeping bag
© Public Health England

Ensuring you understand a person’s situation will mean you can assess their needs and provide the most appropriate support.

1 Get background information

Find out as much about their situation as you can before you approach. For example:

  • Has the person been in contact with someone with COVID-19?
  • Or have they had coronavirus themselves?

Think about what measures you need to take in order to prevent the spread of infection, and find out if the person has any particular communication needs.

2 Identify immediate needs

Address the person’s immediate needs: are they cold, thirsty, hungry?

You may be able to directly help them with food, shelter or other essential needs; or direct them to support services that might help them .

3 Assessing support needs

People’s needs for support depend on the nature of the situation and their own circumstances. You should ask people and their families about their support needs and how they are being met.

This can include practical measures, such as:

  • Basic needs, including food, water or shelter
  • Adhering to infection control measures — for example, accessing personal protective equipment
  • Daily care such as washing and dressing or household tasks, such as shopping, cooking and cleaning
  • Medical history and medications (while emphasising that you are not a medical professional, if you are not)
  • Support with caring responsibilities for children, elderly or those with learning or other disabilities
  • Advice or assistance with finances, housing, employment and education

Some people will have less practical support needs and may benefit from:

  • Someone to speak to who feels trusted and can provide comfort
  • Finding meaningful or purposeful activity

You can provide immediate support by being there to talk and help that person work through their concerns and problem solve in order to access the social support available to them. This can help them restore confidence in their ability to cope and sense of control over their lives, which can be disrupted when experiencing a crisis.

4 Ensure the safety of yourself and others

Follow appropriate guidelines to reduce the risk of infection. This may mean delivering your support remotely. Do not put yourself at risk.

People in isolation may be exposed to violence or other risks. You should explore with people whether they feel safe and if there are other places they can go to for refuge or respite.

Also look into the safety of vulnerable dependents, such as children, elderly or those with dementia or learning disabilities.

Familiarise yourself with local safeguarding policy and find out whether you need to involve the police or social services.

© Public Health England
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COVID-19: Psychological First Aid

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