It’s a big step deciding that it’s time for a loved one or for yourself to move into a care home. Whether for end of life care or complex care to cope with a chronic condition, it is often the single best choice. Whatever your individual care needs, paying for residential care in a care home is expensive.
If you need help, your local authority might cover some or all of the cost of your care.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about local authority funding for care homes. It will cover who qualifies for funding and how the process works. We’ll then briefly talk about what you can do if you think there’s been a problem.
Whether you qualify for local authority funding depends on a number of factors. They include where in the UK you live, what your care needs are and how much you can afford to pay. Qualification thresholds for local authority funding are based on the value of your savings and assets. The thresholds for 2019/20 are detailed in the table below:
|Country||No Qualification||Qualification for Partial Funding||Qualification for Full Funding|
|England||£23,250+||£14,250 – £23,250||< £14,250|
|Northern Ireland||£23,250+||£14,250 – £23,250||< £14,250|
|Scotland||£28,000+||£17,500 – £28,000||< £17,500|
If your savings and assets are worth more than the top threshold for your country of residence, it’s still worth contacting your local authority. That’s because everyone’s entitled to a care needs assessment. If you do qualify for funding, that care needs assessment is the first step to securing it.
Whatever the value of your savings and assets, you’re entitled to a care needs assessment. The assessment allows your local authority to identify your care needs. They will also check whether those needs meet a nationally agreed set of criteria.
Once your care needs assessment is complete, your local authority will perform a financial assessment known as a ‘means test’.
The means test performed by your local authority looks at both your capital (savings and assets) and your income. The capital thresholds for funding qualification are as listed in the earlier table. There are, however, some other important points to note about funding in each country of the UK.
If your capital is worth less than £14,250, you will not have to contribute to your care costs from it. You may, however, still have to contribute from your income if it is deemed to be high enough.
If your capital is worth between £14,250 and £23,250, you must contribute to your care costs from that capital. The rate of contribution is £1 for every £250 worth of capital you have above the lower threshold (£14,250). This is sometimes referred to as ‘tariff income’.
Those individuals who have capital worth more than £23,250 have to cover the full costs of their care themselves. If your capital is worth less than that but your weekly income is assessed as enough to cover care costs, you will still have to pay for your own care.
Apart from having different thresholds (as in the table), the situation is broadly similar in Scotland. The ‘tariff income’ rate is the same (£1 for every £250 over the lower threshold). Weekly income can also mean that those whose capital doesn’t reach the top threshold may still have to pay for their own care.
The main point of difference in Scotland comes in the shape of the additional help you may be entitled to. If you’re over 65 and have been assessed as needing care in a care home, you might be able to claim personal care payments and/or nursing care payments.
These are additional payments to help cover the costs of your day-to-day care. Up to £177 per week is available in personal care payments. Up to £80 per week is available in nursing care payments.
The most important thing to note about local authority funding in Wales is that there’s no mechanism for partial funding. Your local authority either covers the full cost of your care or provides no funding at all.
If you qualify for funding, your local authority will set up a personal budget for you, to cover the costs. You have three options as to how to manage and allocate that personal budget:
If you do ask your local authority to arrange residential care, there are certain things they have a duty to do. They should offer you a choice of homes that meet your needs and accept residents funded by local authorities. If there are no such places available at the local authority’s standard rate, they’re expected to pay the extra.
If you do not like the choices provided by your local authority, you can choose to live elsewhere. In that case, somebody will have to ‘top up’ the local authority funding in order to cover the extra costs associated with your chosen care home.
Bio: Greg Holt is the Chief Marketing Officer at Newcross Healthcare, an independent organisation that provides highly trained staff, clinical expertise, and administrative support to the healthcare sector. He is based in Bristol.