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Getting financial help for long-term care

By Paul Davies

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Getting financial help for long-term care

Working out how much funding your relative is eligible for can be very confusing: we explain the rules in this guide.

If an elderly relative would like to continue to stay at home but needs help to do so, home help or home care (also known as ‘domiciliary care’) might be the answer. However, most care agencies involve a cost of some kind.

If your relative needs to move to a care home, the rules around funding this involve a complicated means-tested system.  

Some people with severe needs receive free NHS continuing care, but most will have to have a financial assessment, organised by the local authority. Following this assessment, your relative will know if he or she will have to contribute to their residential care and how much they are expected to pay.

Financial assessment

For both types of care, the local authority carries out a financial assessment, or means test, to work out how much it will pay for and how much your relative must contribute. 

If your relative moves into a care home, your local authority may pay the fees. But around a third of all residents are not eligible and have to pay the full cost of their care.

Claiming benefits

Even if your relative has to pay their own fees, they could be entitled to certain benefits that are not means-tested (rates below are for 2017-18).

Attendance allowance

This is paid to over-65s, including self-funded care-home residents, who need help with personal care, such as washing or dressing. It is not normally paid if the local authority is paying for the care home. 

The rates are £55.65 a week where care is needed either day or night, and £83.10 a week where it is needed for both (2016-17 rates). Read more about attendance allowance.

NHS-funded nursing care 

If you live in England or Wales and qualify for NHS support for residential care, you get a flat rate of £155.05 a week in England and £140.90 in Wales, paid directly to the nursing home. The system is Scotland isn't means tested, but the amount you receive will depend on the type of care you receive. 

You'll find more about how NHS-funded nursing care works on our Which? Elderly Care website. 

Disability living allowance

You may claim the care component of this (£21.80 to £82.30 a week), depending on the level of help you need. You also receive the mobility component (£21.80 or £57.45 a week – 2016/17 rates) if you were claiming this before entering the care home.

The disability living allowance is being phased out, in favour of a similar scheme called the personal independence payment for people of working age, and the attendance allowance for people aged 65 or above.  If you receive the disability living allowance you'll be notified by the Department for Work and Pensions when you need to switch schemes. If you don't already claim the disability living allowance you'll need to apply for the personal independence payment instead. 

The disability living allowance has a daily living component, and a mobility component. The former is worth £55.65 per week as standard, with an enhanced rate of £83.10 per week. The latter is worth £22 per week, or £58 at the enhanced rate. 

For more details, visit Which? Elderly Care's guide to the personal independence payment. The site has detailed guidance for anyone organising care, including more information about financing care at home or in a care home.

Paying for care at home

If your relative wants to stay in their home but needs help to do so they'll currently only qualify for help if they have less than £23,250 in England or Northern Ireland, £30,000 in Wales or £26,250 in Scotland in savings and investments, but excluding the value of your home. 

Visit the Which? Elderly Care guide to financing care at home for more information

Paying for residential care

If a care home would suit your relative's needs better, the rules that determine how much support you'll get, if anything, are complex, and depend on your circumstances and where you live. 

If they own their own home, it's likely that will be included as part of the means testing - unless their spouse, partner or civil partner still lives there. 

Read our guide to financing a care home to see how this works in different parts of the country, and how to claim support from your local authority. 

Scotland – a special case

Scotland's funding system follows different rules to the rest of the UK. Your relative's needs are assessed in the same way but, if they need long-term care, they get a personal care allowance of £171 a week. 

If they need nursing care, they also receive a £78-a-week nursing contribution. This money is not means-tested and is available for care in their own home as well as for residential care. Care at home is not limited to these sums – some people may get more.

Residential care is not free for all, however. If your relative has assets of more than £26,250, they still have to pay their own living costs. Scottish residents do not receive attendance allowance.

Challenging a health funding decision

If you think your relative should get continuing healthcare funding, ask for a review by your local health trust or board. If it decides that they do not meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for a review of the decision or complain about criteria.

If you're unsuccessful, you can go to a regional independent review panel. If all else fails, contact Citizens Advice to help take the case further. Find out more on Which? Elderly Care and appealing a long-term care decision.  

  • Last updated: May 2017
  • Updated by: Tom Wilson
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