What is the average cost of a care home for self-funders?
Care home fees across the UK for people paying for their own care are something of a postcode lottery. For example, on average, residential care in a nursing home in the South East of England is 42% higher than for a nursing home in the North East.
With this in mind, we have built a cost of care and eligibility calculator to enable you to find out the average cost of care for a self-funder in either a residential care home or a nursing home in any local authority in England. By answering a few simple questions, we will also tell you if you are likely to be supported by the local authority or not.
As yet, we’ve been unable to include average fees for care in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in our calculator, because the necessary data isn’t available. However, the average fees for each country in the UK are shown below.
These figures reflect average fees charged for privately- and publicly-funded rooms in for-profit homes for older people and those with dementia (aged 65 and over). (Researched by LaingBuisson for its Care of Older People UK market report, 30th edition, published December 2019.)
Average care home fees across the UK
The table below gives a breakdown of average care home costs across the UK in 2018-19:
Cost of residential
care per week
Cost of nursing
care per week
More on these figures:
- Different fees for self-funders and local authorities. These figures are the average amounts paid by both local authorities and self-funders. 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 usually be higher than these averages.
- It’s not just a question of which country you live in. Fees vary from one district to another. For example, a care home in the South East of England averaged £783 a week in 2018-19 – the equivalent fee in the North West was £547. For a more precise picture in England, use the 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.
The rising cost of care homes
Care home fees have been rising at above-inflationary rates in recent years. For example, the UK inflation rate hovered around 2% at the end of 2018-19, but care home fees increased at more than double that rate (4.7%) in that year. What’s more, in 2018-19 care home fees rose by the biggest annual hike in 10 years.
Read more about how care home costs have risen in recent years – and how they vary around the UK – on Which? News:
How do care homes structure their fees?
In addition to where you live, the fee you pay also depends on the level of your 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.
Another factor that will affect the fee is whether the room is single or shared – although shared rooms are becoming a far less common option these days.
If you’re thinking about choosing a care home, our care services directory makes it easy to search for care homes across the UK.
Avoiding care home fees
Meeting the cost of care in later life will be one of the biggest financial challenges many of us will face. Understandably, the idea of not having enough money to fund suitable care, or of 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 (around 45% in 2018-19) 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 a ‘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:
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 on your care plan. However, it stands to reason that they will be looking to do this in the most cost-effective way.
Councils have a standard rate (also called the ‘usual cost’) 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 I move to a different part of the country?
If you’re assessed as being eligible for financial support, your local authority should offer you a choice of care homes that meet your care needs and accept council-funded residents.
The amount of money that a local authority pays a care home varies widely across the country. It’s important to know that if you move to another part of the country, the fee you’re assessed as needing by your local authority will remain the same regardless of where you move to.
So if, say, 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, say, 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, unless you fit into any of the exceptions explained below. In this instance, you might have to consider a family member of friend paying a top-up fee.
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 recognised when a needs assessment is carried out.
Explore the options for paying for a care home: local authority funding, paying for yourself or NHS support.
We explain how you can pay for your care, what happens if your money runs out and getting financial advice.
Thinking about care in later life can feel overwhelming but we're here to help you make the best choices.