Frequently Asked Questions - On Care and Support in Adult Social care
Below are some frequently asked questions and links to some useful organisations.
- My mother is looking for residential care – will she have to sell her home to pay for her care?
- What if we want a more expensive care home?
- Will her Council Tax be reduced while we sell her home?
- Are there any State Benefits we may be entitled to?
- What about free nursing care?
- My mum needs to go into care now – what can we do?
My mother is looking for residential care – will she have to sell her home to pay for her care?
If your mother has capital of over £23,000 (in England; £22,000 in Wales) she will not qualify for assistance from the Local Authority until such a time as her capital is below this amount. Any private care fees will therefore have to be met from existing capital and income. (If she has assets below £23,000, she would get increasing help on a sliding scale down to the lower limit of £14,250, where no contribution is needed).
Most savings and assets are included in a means test, but some confusion has surrounded the subject of whether or not a person’s home is included. To help clarify the situation, a person’s home is not included in the means test if:
- a child under 16 lives in the property;
- they’re in the first 12 weeks of needing permanent care;
- care is being provided on a temporary basis.
- your parent still resides in the home;
- a relative over 60 resides in the house;
- a disabled relative lives at the property;
The 12-week property disregard
As mentioned above, a persons’ property is excluded from the means test for the first 12 weeks following admission to a care home (once a permanent contract is established). This means that if their remaining capital falls inside the current threshold, then the local authority should assist you with the payment of your care fees.
It is worth noting that they will in most cases only pay up to their published limits, which could leave a family with what is known as a “third-party top up”, to cover any difference in actual care fees and the local authority contribution.
The money paid out by the local authority during the first 12 weeks is not normally repayable.
Deferred Payment Agreement (Government Loan Scheme)
If, after the first 12 weeks, the property has not been sold, the local authority can continue to pay towards the care fees, under the “deferred payment agreement”, but this money is repayable once the property is sold.
What if we want a more expensive care home?
You can choose a care home that is more expensive than your local council usually pays for a person with your assessed needs, but you may need to find a way to pay the difference.
If the council can suggest a place that meets your needs and you still want to move into a more expensive care home then they can ask a third party (usually a relative or friend) to pay the extra. This is called a ‘top-up fee’. You are not able to pay this yourself as you have been financially assessed to pay what you can afford.
If your local council cannot suggest a place that meets your needs in your local area then they should be prepared to pay more than their usual amount.
Will her Council Tax be reduced while we sell her home?
No. Council Tax is payable on properties left unoccupied by people who have moved to receive personal care, whether in a hospital, care home or elsewhere. Generally speaking, the residents of care homes or those whose main home is a hospital do not have to pay Council Tax.
More details about these arrangements can be found in the leaflet ‘Council tax – a guide to your bill’, available from the Department for Communities (www.communities.gov.uk) and your local government website.
Are there any State Benefits we may be entitled to?
Possibly, as most state benefits are means-tested. Attendance Allowance is an exception; it is a non-means tested, tax-free state benefit, payable to all individuals over the age of 65 who have needed care (defined as help with essential daily tasks, such as washing and dressing) for longer than six consecutive months.
Attendance Allowance is available at two rates; a lower rate, for those who need help during the day or the night and a higher rate, for those needing care during both the day and night. The current weekly figures (2015/16) are £55.10 lower rate and £82.30 for the higher rate. Claim forms can be obtained from larger Post Offices, Citizens Advice Bureaux or downloaded from the website at www.direct.gov.uk.
Individuals needing care under the age of 65 will still qualify for an allowance, but this is paid in the form of Disability Living Allowance.
What about free nursing care?
The NHS will cover the cost of any nursing care provided by a registered nurse that a person in a nursing home is assessed as needing. This cost is a flat rate of £112 at the standard rate, or £154.12 at the higher rate, a week in England and £140.90 a week in Wales (for 2015/16), and is called NHS-funded nursing care (formerly known as the registered nursing care contribution).
Anyone entering a nursing home should be assessed to see if they qualify for NHS-funded nursing care. If they do, this money will be paid directly to the nursing home. The assessment is repeated annually thereafter, and it is possible that individuals will find themselves re-banded after each assessment.
Continuing Health Care
Some people with ongoing health needs may be entitled to all their fees in a nursing home being paid by the Primary Care Trust (PCT). To be eligible, a continuing care health assessment is conducted by a designated nurse from the PCT and is taken to a panel for discussion on whether the individual meets certain criteria. The assessment should be conducted with the knowledge and input of the resident, next of kin and other professionals involved in the person’s care. In some circumstances, the assessment process can be fast-tracked, eg when a person is diagnosed as terminally ill with a life expectancy of one month or less.
My mum needs to go into care now – what can we do?
As mentioned previously, if your mother’s capital and savings and/or income push her outside the means test thresholds, she will generally be responsible for the funding of her own care fees until such a time as her money falls below the appropriate threshold.
However, with careful planning it may be possible to structure her finances in such a way that her care fees can be paid indefinitely, without worry about the money running out. Most families wish to ensure that their relative can stay in their chosen care home for the rest of their lives as well as safeguarding as much of the existing capital as possible. Speak to an Independent Financial Advisor or consider an organisation that specialises in care fees planning, such as some from the list below. Please note that we do not endorse one particular organisation.