What is the average cost of a care home for self-funders?
Care home fees across the UK are something of a postcode lottery. For example, the average cost of a residential care home in 2019-20 ranged from £551 a week in Northern Ireland to £858 in Scotland. That’s a difference of £307 a week, or almost £16,000 a year.
And it’s not just a question of which country you live in – there are big differences from region to region. On average, residential care in a nursing home in the South East of England costs 44% more than a nursing home in the North East.
Our cost of care calculator enables you to find out the average cost of care for a self-funder in a residential care home or nursing home in any local authority in England. By answering a few simple questions, we will also tell you if you are likely to get financial support from the local authority.
We are currently unable to include care costs for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in our calculator, as the necessary data is not available. However, average fees for each country in the UK are shown below.
Average care home fees across the UK
The table below gives a breakdown of average care home costs across the UK in 2019-20:
Cost of residential
care per week
Cost of nursing
care per week
These figures reflect average fees charged for privately- and publicly-funded rooms in for-profit homes for older people (65 and over) and those with dementia. (Researched by LaingBuisson for its Care of Older People UK market report, published January 2021.)
A closer look at these figures:
- Self-funders and local authorities pay different rates. The figures above are averages based on the amounts paid by local authorities and self-funders. But because self-funders typically pay more for a care home than a local authority will – over 30% more on average in 2018-19 – fees for self-funders will often be higher than these average amounts.
- It’s not just a question of which country you live in. Fees also vary from one district to another. For example, a care home in the South East of England averaged £840 a week in 2019-20 – the equivalent fee in the North West was £582. For a more precise picture in England, use our cost of care and eligibility checker.
- Fees also reflect an individual’s care needs. Care homes and nursing homes that provide specialist care for people with dementia usually charge higher fees than those who don’t provide that level of support.
- Be aware of annual price increases. In recent years care home fees have been rising steadily, usually at well above the rate of inflation. Read more on Which? News about the latest care home price rises and how they differ across the UK.
How do care homes structure their fees?
In addition to where you live, the fees you pay also depend on the level of your care needs. For example, a care home is likely to charge a higher fee for someone who has dementia, as the levels of care and support that person requires are higher than for a person without dementia.
Likewise, nursing home fees are consistently higher than standard residential care home fees, reflecting the higher level of care that’s provided.
Other factors that will affect the fee are whether the room comes with an en suite bathroom and whether it is a single or shared room – although shared rooms are becoming far less common these days.
If you’re thinking about choosing a care home, our care services directory makes it easy to search for and compare local care homes across the UK.
Avoiding care home fees
Meeting the cost of care in later life is one of the biggest financial challenges many of us will face. Understandably, thoughts of not having enough money to fund suitable care, or having to sell the family home to pay for it, can be big concerns. So it’s important to understand the different care and funding options that exist.
Don’t assume that you’ll necessarily be paying all of your own fees. While most people will make a contribution towards their care costs, less than half of people in care homes are completely self-funded.
The main ways to avoid paying full care home fees
Local authority funding: The amount of local authority support you can get, if any, depends on where you live and your savings, assets and income. This will be worked out through a combination of a care needs assessment and a means test.
You will usually only be eligible for council funding if your savings and assets are below a set threshold – this is £23,350 in England, but it’s higher in other parts of the UK. While it may be tempting to give away some of your savings or property to have a better chance of qualifying for free care, there are strict rules involved and you must avoid anything that could be classed as ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’.
NHS Continuing Healthcare: In certain circumstances, the NHS will cover the cost of a care home if you have complex health needs, but the rules are complex and it’s not easy to qualify.
Staying in your own home for as long as possible: Depending on the level of care you need, there are various living arrangements and support services that could help you live at home for as long as possible.
Read more about some of the best ways to stay independent at home:
Read more about the different options for paying for a care home in the UK, from local authority and NHS support to paying the costs yourself: Paying for a care home
How much will a local authority pay for a care home?
If you qualify for financial support from your local authority, they should pay a realistic amount that will provide you with the care you need, as outlined in your care plan. However, it stands to reason that they will be looking to do this in the most cost-effective way.
Councils have standard rates that they are usually prepared to pay for care. They will have different rates to cater for people needing different levels of care – for example, in a care home with personal care only, or in a care home with nursing.
If you’re arranging residential care for someone who has dementia, be aware that the local authority won’t always pay more to a care home to cover their needs. This will have implications if you are arranging care for a loved one and considering paying a care home top-up fee.
What happens if you move to a different part of the country?
The amount that a local authority will pay for a care home varies widely across the country. If you move to another part of the country, the financial support that you’re assessed as needing by your local authority will remain the same regardless of where you move to.
So, for example, if you’re assessed by a local authority in the North East of England, where local authorities pay some of the lowest rates in the UK, and you move to be near a loved one in London (which has some of the highest rates in the UK), you might find it difficult to find a care home that will accept such a low fee. In this instance, you might have to consider a family member of friend paying a top-up fee.
However, there are some cases where a local authority might increase the amount that it is willing to pay for a care home – see below.
We had a very stressful time because the fees down south were higher than what the council up north would pay. It looked like the family would have to top up the fees but a charity where my aunty used to work stepped in.
When might a local authority increase the fee they pay a care home?
There are some circumstances when the local authority may increase the amount it’s prepared to pay. For example, if:
- you need to move to a more expensive area to be nearer your family
- you have particular care needs that can only be accommodated in a more expensive care home
- the council can only offer one care home in the area that meets your needs and that home charges more than the fee the local authority is willing to pay
- you were a self-funder but have become local authority-funded and can’t be moved because of physical frailty or issues affecting your mental wellbeing.
These circumstances relate to assessed needs, so it’s important these are identified in your needs assessment.
How to pay for care in later life care: download our free guide
When it comes to paying for care in later life, there’s no one size that fits all. How much it costs to get the right support will depend on your individual needs, financial circumstances and where you live in the UK.
Care can be expensive, but there may be financial support available – from your local council, state benefits or the NHS. However, navigating the system can be complex and sometimes stressful. That’s why we’ve created a free step-by-step guide to paying for care in later life.
Our guide provides straightforward information about how care is funded across the UK, how much different care services typically cost, and how to find out if you’re eligible for financial support. It also gives useful tips on how to juggle your finances if you have to cover all or most of the costs yourself.
We explain how to cover the costs of a care home if you are a self-funder, and what happens if your money runs out.
You can request a deferred payment agreement from the council if you’re struggling to pay care home fees.
Download our simple guide to paying for care. It explains different ways to fund care and how to get financial support.