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paying for care


Funding social care can be a daunting prospect, however help is available, possibly from your local council or the NHS.

Care fees can be funded in the following ways:

  • Local authority funding – which can fund some or all of your care
  • Self-funding – either you or a family member or friend pays for your care
  • NHS funding – in some cases, the NHS will pay for your care.

Local Authority funded care

The first step in arranging any sort of care, whether this is home-based or residential, is to ask your council for a care needs assessment. This helps work out what level of care you need which will lead to a means test. This is a financial assessment, and the local council will ask about your income, savings and sometimes property to work out how much you will contribute to your care.

How your income is assessed

Certain types of income will not be assessed, for example from certain disability benefits and pensions. When getting this financial assessment, make sure you are claiming all the benefits you can, as the means test will assume you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to, even if you are not currently receiving them.

If you hold joint capital, such as a joint savings account, it is usually treated as divided equally.

What is assessed depends on whether you need home care or whether you need to move into residential care. If you need care within your home, this assessment will not include the value of your property but if you need to move into a care home permanently, the test may include the value of your property. Even if you are moving into long term residential care, your property will not be included in the assessment if the property is occupied by any the following:

  • Your partner or former partner, unless they are estranged from you
  • Your estranged or divorced partner IF they are also a lone parent
  • A relative who is aged 60 or over
  • A relative who is disabled
  • A child of yours aged under 18

If your property is included in your means test, the council must not include it for the first 12 weeks of care. This gives you the chance to decide what to do with your home and fees. If your other assets are below the minimum threshold, you will likely qualify for help with fees for the first 12 weeks.

Deferred Payment Agreements

Whilst selling your property can be a difficult and emotional step, it is sometimes the best solution if no one will be living in that home. If you are not ready to sell your property yet, you can enter a ‘deferred payment agreement’ (DPA) to delay selling it. This means the council enters a legal agreement to provide financial support for your care costs, on the condition that they recover these costs from your property at a later date. This usually involves the council placing a legal charge on your property with the Land Registry to secure repayment. A DPA could last until you die, or just give you the time to sell your home when you choose to do so.

When this means test is complete, the council will give you a written notification of their decision of what you will pay and how they have come to that decision.

Assessing for Home Care

If the council decide that the care that you need is some home adaptations or equipment, they will cover the cost of every adaptation that costs less than £1,000. However, if you need a carer in your home to help you with daily activities, this could come at more of a cost. Your means test will decide how much you must contribute to home care. The threshold in England is £23,250 and if your income and capital are valued above that you must pay full fees. If you have less than that but more than £14,250, then the local authority will fund some of the cost, and anything below £14,250 will not be included

Minimum Income Guarantee

After your means test, you must be left with an income of £189 a week if you are single and above the qualifying Pension Credit age. This is called the Minimum Income Guarantee.

Assessing for Residential Care

How much you must contribute towards care within a residential or nursing home is calculated similar to that of home care. The threshold in England is £23,250 and if your income and capital are valued above that then you must pay full fees. If it is between £14,250 and £23,250 you will pay partial fees, and anything less than £14,250 then the council will fund your care.

Personal expenses allowance

If you are moving into a care home, you should not be left with less than £24.90 a week after any contribution to your fees, called a Personal Expenses Allowance.

If you are funding fees yourself, and your capital drops below £23,250, your local council may start assisting with funding. But make sure you request an assessment a few months before this happens, so that you do not have to use up too much of your capital below this amount.

Top-up Fees

If you are eligible for support from the local authority, you should be offered a range of care homes to suit your needs. However, you may decide you want to live in a home which is more expensive than the ones you have been offered. If this is the case, a friend or family member can volunteer to pay the difference between what the council is offering and what the home charges. This is called a top-up fee.

NHS Funded Care

On some occasions the NHS can fund care home fees for those with complex needs. The following two funds are not means tested, but they do have strict eligibility criteria.

  • NHS Continuing Healthcare – this funds care for those who need ongoing complex medical care due to disability, accident, or major illness
  • NHS funded Nursing Care – can cover the cost of nursing home fees, if you are assessed by the NHS as needing nursing care.

Age UK have a handy assessment tool which can give you an indication of how much support you might be likely to receive.

Self-funded Care

If you are above the minimum threshold, you will most likely have to pay for your own social care, whether this is home-based or residential care.

How much does social care cost?

 Homecare on average costs around £15 an hour, but this can vary. To find a home care agency, you can also:

  • Visit the UK Home Care Association which can give you details of home care providers which follow its code of practice
  • Your local council and its adult social care department can provide you with details of approved private agencies.
  • Word of mouth can also be really helpful, so ask around friends and family.

Residential and nursing care is more costly. The exact cost can vary depending on the home and the level of care required. But to give an approximate, in 2019/20, the average weekly cost in the South West for a residential home was £700, and the average for a nursing home was £1,050. If specialist dementia care is required, this can increase the costs slightly. Average costs for residential dementia care is £716 in the South West, and for nursing dementia care, this rises to £1,050 a week. (Source: Paying for Care)

Funding social care can be a confusing process, however there are a lot of resources and organisations out there which can help:




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