Choosing a care home Getting financial help
How much you should pay for your care depends on the level of care needed, income and savings, and personal circumstances such as whether you live alone or not. Funding systems differ across the UK and they can be difficult to understand.
The local authority carries out a financial assessment, or means test, to work out how much of your care it will pay for and how much you must pay yourself. If you move 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 your due
Even if you have to pay your own fees, you could be entitled to certain benefits that are not means-tested (rates below are for 2012-13).
- NHS funding for nursing care If you live in England or Wales and qualify, you get a flat rate of £108.70 a week in England and £120.55 in Wales, paid directly to the nursing home.
- 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 £51.85 a week where care is needed day or night, and £77.45 a week where it is needed for both (2012/13 rates).
- Disability living allowance You may claim the care component of this (£20.55 to £77.45 a week), depending on the level of help you need. You also receive the mobility component (£20.55 or £54.05 a week - 2012/13 rates) if you were claiming this before entering the care home.
Paying for care in your own home
To qualify for financial support, you must have less than £23,250 (England and Northern Ireland), £23,250 (Wales) or £24,750 (Scotland) in savings and investments (not including your home). If you hold these jointly, you will be assessed as owning half their value. If your spouse or civil partner has savings in their name alone these will not be taken into account. You pay for care on a sliding scale, depending on your income after housing and disability-related costs.
Paying for residential care
If you have less than the upper assets limit (£23,250 in England and Northern Ireland, £23,250 in Wales, £24,750 in Scotland), you will receive some financial help from your local authority but will still be expected to contribute to care-home fees. If your home is still occupied by your spouse or civil partner, a relative who is aged 60 or over or who is incapacitated, or a child under 16 for whom you are legally responsible, its value is excluded from your assets. You may also get non-means-tested financial help from the NHS for nursing care.
If you have to contribute, your assets below a lower limit (£14,250 in England and Northern Ireland, £22,500 in Wales, £15,250 in Scotland for 2012-13) are ignored. You will pay £1 a week for each £250 of assets above this. You must also pay your occupational and state pension to the council, plus any benefits you are entitled to. The only income you can keep is £23.50 a week (£24 in Wales) for personal expenses (2012/13 rates).
The local authority will normally pay for your care only up to an agreed limit, which may restrict your choice of home. If you want to go somewhere more expensive, your relatives or another third party must pay ‘top-up fees’ to make good the shortfall.
Scotland – a special case
Scotland’s funding system follows different rules from the rest of the UK. Your needs are assessed in the same way, but if you need long-term care you get a personal care allowance of £163 a week. If you need nursing care, you also receive £74 a week nursing contribution. This money is not means-tested and is available for care in your 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 you have assets of more than £24,750, you still have to pay your own living costs. Scottish residents do not receive attendance allowance.
Challenging a health funding decision
If you think you or a relative should get continuing care funding, ask for a review by your local health trust or board. If it decides that the person does not meet 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.