Can I get local authority-funded care in my home?
Before getting financial help from the council, you will need to undergo two assessments.
- A needs assessment: this works out the level of care you need. It also establishes whether your needs meet the criteria for local authority support.
- A financial assessment: this looks at your financial situation and your ability to pay for your own care. After the assessment the local authority will decide how much, if anything, it will contribute towards the cost of your care.
What’s included in a financial assessment for home care?
Following a needs assessment, if the council decides you have eligible care needs they will then carry out a financial assessment (also known as a ‘social care means test’). This looks at your income and capital (savings and assets) to work out whether you are eligible for financial support towards the cost of your care.
The assessment will consider the following aspects:
Your total capital
This is the total amount of money you have, minus any debts. Any joint accounts are generally treated as an equal split. This will include:
- Bank and building society accounts
- Regular savings and investments, including Isas and Savings Certificates
- Premium Bonds
- Stocks and shares
- Shares in a family business
- Trust funds
- Any additional properties you own (not including your main home)
Pensions and annuities
This means any private or workplace pensions.
State benefits and pensions
Most state benefits, including the state pension, are taken into consideration. This includes:
- Attendance Allowance
- Bereavement Allowance
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) daily living component (or the Disability Living Allowance care component)
- Pension Credit
- State pension
- Universal Credit
This could include rental income, for example. In England or Wales, income you earn from employment is not included.
What’s not included?
Among other things, the following won’t be included in the financial assessment:
- The value of your main or only home
- Personal possessions
- Surrender value of life insurance policies
- Earnings from employment or self-employment (in England and Wales)
- The mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and any mobility supplement.
- Winter Fuel Payment and other Social Fund payments
- Christmas Bonus
- Gallantry awards
Can I give away money or shield it from the means test?
There are other financial arrangements that might in some cases be excluded from a financial assessment. These include investment bonds with a life assurance element or assets placed in a trust.
However, the rules for such arrangements are complex and there is no guarantee that these funds would be disregarded from a financial assessment. You should seek independent financial advice before moving assets into a trust or an investment bond.
As a general principle, you cannot intentionally move your money into a trust or another financial vehicle to avoid paying care fees. If you do so, the local authority could deem this to be a deliberate deprivation of assets.
Likewise, you cannot deliberately give away money or assets (to your children, for example) in order to qualify for local authority care funding.
- Read more about the rules on giving away assets and property.
What are the means-test thresholds in the UK?
There are different rules for different countries in the United Kingdom.
For the financial year 2021-22:
The upper threshold is £23,250: if your capital is more than this, you’ll have to pay the full cost of your care.
The lower threshold is £14,250: if you have less than this amount, you’ll be entitled to maximum support from the local authority. You won’t have to contribute from your capital, but you may still be expected to contribute from your income
If your capital is between the upper and lower limits: you may be eligible for local authority funding, but you’ll have to make a contribution towards the cost of your care. This is calculated on a sliding scale and is known as ‘tariff income’. It works out at £1 a week for every £250 of savings between £14,250 and £23,250.
Remember that your income will also be taken into account. Even if you have less than £23,250 in savings, if your weekly income is considered to high enough to cover the cost of your care, you’ll have to pay all of your fees.
However, any contributions you make shouldn’t take your income below a minimum protected level, known as the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG), which is £189 a week (2021-22). If you’re part of a couple, your individual MIG is £144.30, or £288.60 if you both need care.
Some local authorities top up the basic MIG level to allow you to keep more of your income, so it’s worth asking your local authority what their policy is to enable you to plan your cash flow.
In Wales, if your total capital is:
more than £24,000: you’ll have to pay for your care. But the amount you’ll be charged for care at home is capped at a maximum of £100 per week (2021-22).
less than £24,000: you’ll be entitled to maximum support from the local authority. You won’t have to contribute from your capital, but you may be expected to contribute from your income.
Any contributions you make to the cost of your care should not take your income below a set weekly level, known as the Minimum Income Amount (MIA). This is not a fixed amount – it’s calculated on an individual basis and local authorities have some discretion in how they work out your MIA.
In general, the MIA should be at least: a basic entitlement at the level of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit (or an equivalent entitlement), plus an additional allowance of 45% of the basic entitlement.
For more detailed guidance, see the Code of practice on charging for social care services in Wales.
In Scotland, personal care is free if you have been assessed by your local authority as needing it. This is regardless of your financial circumstances, so there is no means test for personal care at home.
If you require additional support that’s not classed as personal care, there could be a financial assessment to calculate how much you should pay for this.
The means-test process varies between local authorities, but the guidelines state that there are minimum income thresholds below which you should not be asked to pay care charges. These thresholds are £222 for a single person or £338 for a couple (2021-22). Capital below £10,000 should also be disregarded from the financial assessment
Age Scotland has more detailed advice about the financial help available to pay for care in Scotland. You can also call their helpline for information and advice.
For detailed information about the rules for charging for social care support at home, see the guidance published by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
In Northern Ireland, personal care is free if you have been assessed by your local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust as needing it. This is regardless of personal circumstances, so there is no means test for personal care at home.
What are the rules for couples?
A person being assessed for care at home should be treated as an individual. If you’re married or living with a partner, only the income of the person being cared for can be taken into account in the financial assessment.
If you share a savings account with another person (partner, family member or friend), consider splitting it into separate accounts so it’s easier to see who has what for the purposes of the financial assessment and paying for care in general.
Be warned, however, that there are strict rules about ‘giving away’ assets to avoid paying for care – see gifting assets and property for more information.
What happens after an assessment?
After the financial assessment has been completed, you should be provided with written information from the local authority detailing how much your care will cost and what you'll need to pay.
- qualify for help with costs: you’ll usually be offered a personal budget or direct payments
- don’t qualify for help: you’ll be looking to self-fund your care at home, in which case see our guidance on paying for home care
- are unhappy with the assessment: you can challenge a local authority’s decision.
Can I get help if I don't qualify for financial support?
If you (or someone you’re caring for) are assessed as having eligible care needs but you don’t qualify for financial support, the local authority still has a duty to help with arranging your care.
In this situation, the help the local authority can offer will depend on your needs and circumstances. For example, they may give you advice about your options, recommend suitable care providers, or even help to set up and manage suitable arrangements with a care provider.
You may be liable to pay an arrangement fee for any help they give in arranging care, as well as the care costs that will be incurred. But you will not be charged for the assessment of your needs, the assessment of your finances, or the preparation of your care plan.
Contact your local authority for more information about what help they can provide for your situation.