The crisis in social care funding has at last come near the top of the government’s “to-do list”. Sadly, this complex issue has been largely ignored for many years.  That is of little help if you have a loved one currently needing care or about to be in that situation.  It is heart breaking enough to confront the fact that your mother or father may no longer be able to look after themselves.  It can be hard to find the appropriate care without having the additional concern as to how the potentially enormous costs will be paid. The average costs of residential care in the UK in 2017/18 was over £32,000 per annum.  This rose to over £44,500 a year when nursing care was included.  These costs vary hugely across the country and indeed between individual care homes.

Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for government assistance in meeting some, or all, of the costs of care. Firstly, it is helpful to have an understanding of whether the primary need is for health or social care.  This can be a rather subtle distinction, but as a general rule if you are in need of support from a qualified nurse or health care professional, needs are most likely to be classed as health care. Health care needs are covered by the NHS. 

There are two options generally available to individuals living in care homes. Free Nursing Care (FNC) is a flat rate contribution that the NHS will pay to a care home or care provider for the cost of delivering nursing support. Continuing Healthcare (CHC) is generally available only to those with more significant nursing needs and should cover the entire cost of care.  The level of NHS funding is driven by the nature and severity of care needs and will require an NHS assessment to confirm availability. CHC is not means tested so any savings or property your relative may have, will not be used to pay for care. The CHC postcode lottery means that each local NHS local authority interprets the health assessment guidelines for awarding CHC differently.

Currently, many people with dementia are denied free CHC – which many consider is a national scandal. As yet, there is no cure for dementia, but the cost of care for those affected by this disabling disease is not paid for by the NHS.

Social care – as opposed to health care – is not free to everyone. Local Authorities currently pay in excess of £1bn for elderly care home residents.  Council grants are being slashed so future funding is far from certain.  Councils only have a limited amount of money and they may choose to pay only for those who are in most need of help. When you contact your council about getting a care service it will carry out a care assessment. Depending on where you live, if the needs are assessed as low or moderate there may be no entitlement to free care. If the needs do match the level set by the council, it will carry out a financial assessment. To qualify for care and support provided by a Local Authority a Claimant needs to pass a financial assessment to determine whether they are eligible.  Here if the savings and capital of the person concerned are more than £23,250, they are not eligible

The upheaval of moving your loved one from a home where they may have lived for decades is made worse for thousands of families every year who are forced to sell their parents’ home and spend a lifetime savings because the state does not foot the bill. There may be other options which need to be explored. For instance, there are various disregards which could be applicable in your case. In particular cases there can even be the possibility of obtaining a loan at a very low rate of interest from the Local Authority rather than having to sell a property immediately.

If you would like advice on the challenges faced and the alternatives when health or social care is needed, talk to Richard Wadsworth or Susan Davies who are all experts in the field.  They can be contacted on 01590 676933 or email [email protected].