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Assessing support needs

In this article, we provide guidance on how to assess and understand the needs of those you are supporting
Homeless man in sleeping bag
© UK Health Security Agency

Assessing the needs of those you are supporting is an essential step in the ‘Look’ assessment. This will help you to ensure that you understand their situation and can provide the most appropriate support and/ or signposting for their needs.

Get Background Information

Find out as much about the situation as you can before you approach. Find out if the person has any particular communication needs (for example, as a result of a health condition, such as dementia, sensory impairments, learning difficulties, or speech and language impairments) which may affect their ability to communicate verbally or interact with others. To be able to effectively communicate with individuals with specific communication needs, you must first ensure that you have a good understanding of the individual, including how they communicate, their needs and preferences, and any aids or equipment that they use.

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.

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:

  • Basic needs such as food, water or shelter
  • Ensuring the safety of yourself and others
  • Daily care such as washing and dressing or households 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 or 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 – you will learn more about appropriate communication and demonstrating empathy in week 3.

However, helping someone to work through their concerns and problem solve in order to access the social support available to them can both help them restore confidence in their ability to cope, and give them a sense of control over their lives (which may have been disrupted).

Ensure the safety of yourself and others

Do not put yourself at risk. People experiencing problems or conflicts at home 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 any local safeguarding policies (for examples, for relevant workplaces or other locations) and whether you need to involve police or social services.

© UK Health Security Agency
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