When moving into, or helping a loved one into a care home, fully understanding what the State provides and being certain about costs and affordability is essential for all involved. Seeking specialist advice is important, however, here we seek to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
Who qualifies for local authority financial assistance?
If you have been assessed as needing a care home place and your capital is below £23,250, you should be entitled to financial support from your local authority. If you have capital below £14,250 you will be entitled to maximum support although you will still contribute your income less £23.90 per week retained for personal expenses. If you have capital between £14,250 and £23,250 you will also pay a capital tariff of £1 per week for each £250 or part thereof between these two figures.
If your assets, which may include your property, are calculated to be above £23,250 you will, in most cases, be expected to privately pay for your own care. See the below section on Self-Funding for further information.
If the State is paying do I have a choice of care home?
Yes and it can even be in a different county. The home you choose must be suitable for your assessed needs, comply with any terms and conditions set by the authority and, not cost any more than they would usually pay for someone with your needs.
What if the home costs more than the local authority is prepared to pay for?
The local authority will allow the fees to be topped up by a third party so long as they are able to do so over the long term. You are not allowed to top up the fees yourself from your capital below £23,250.
My partner needs care, how does this financially affect me?
Only the partner requiring care should be means tested. Property occupied by a partner is disregarded and only fifty percent of any private pension should be taken into account. The local authority will take into account 50% of any joint savings. Therefore, to accelerate financial help, it is better to have separate single accounts meeting care costs paid from the account of the person needing care.
If you are self funding your care because you are not eligible for local authority funding, there are other forms of financial assistance you may be entitled to.
Will the Social Services pay my fees whilst I am selling my former home?
If, apart from your property, your other capital is below £23,250 the local authority will help as above with the costs during the first twelve weeks of permanent care. Beyond that period any financial help will be charged against the value of your former home and recovered from the eventual sale proceeds.
Do I have to sell my property?
No, the Social Services can lend you the money to pay for your care charged against your property value. However, they may limit how much they will pay and it could adversely effect your welfare benefit entitlements.
Alternatively you could consider letting your property, though this may not provide the guaranteed level of income required and you will retain the responsibility and costs for maintaining the property.
Do I have to pay council tax on an empty property?
If you move into a care home and your property is left empty then you should receive full exemption from Council Tax until it's sold.
Is there any financial help that is not means tested?
If you are self funding, Attendance Allowance is a non-means tested, non-taxable allowance paid at the lower rate of £53.00 per week for those needing care by day or night and, at a higher rate of £79.15 per week for those needing care by day and night. Also, whether your stay is temporary or permanent, if you receive nursing care in a care home you may be entitled to NHS Funded Nursing Care, which will contribute towards the cost of your nursing care. If applicable, an amount of £109.79 per week is paid by the NHS direct to the nursing home as a contribution towards the weekly fees. If your needs are primarily health care needs, you may be entitled to full funding from your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) following an assessment under their continuing care eligibility criteria.
What happens if I move into a care home independently and run out of money?
Once your capital reduces to £23,250 you can seek local authority assistance. However, if the home costs more than the local authority usually pays and won't reduce its fees, you could be in the difficult situation of either finding a source of top-up or seeking less expensive accommodation, the move to which could be detrimental to health and well being. If there is a likelihood of running out of money it's important for you to arrange an assessment of your care needs with the local social services department to ensure they will step into help. Also check if the care home owner can continue to accommodate you at social services funding rates, or will require a third party top-up.
What can I do to avoid this situation?
There are ways of meeting care costs for as long as you need care whilst using up only part of your capital. For example the use of an Immediate Need Care Fee Annuity can contribute towards capping the cost from the outset thus enabling a potential inheritance to be left for the family from any remaining funds after the purchase of the annuity.
Speak to a specialist care funding adviser who will be able to advise you on your options for funding your care and, if appropriate, investigate whether an Immediate Needs Care Fee Annuity would be a possible solution. They should also be able to give guidance on whether you are receiving the full financial support from the state.