Every year tens of thousands of people have to sell their home to pay care home fees

Every year tens of thousands of people have to sell their home to pay care home fees. What can you do?

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I can’t imagine there are many people who are comfortable with the prospect of having to sell their home to pay care home fees. But for some there’s another problem: they’re either given the wrong information or they’re not told what their rights are. Some people are told they should pay for their own care when it should be the NHS that funds it. Others aren’t told about interest-free loan schemes that they may be able to sign up for. It can add more stress and worry to what is already a difficult time.

Getting an assessment

Before you can work out if your parent or relative needs to pay for their own care, they should be given an assessment.

  • If they’re being discharged from hospital. There should be a multi disciplinary assessment of their needs (involving social services and the GP or hospital), which will look at the care they need, where it should be provided and whose responsibility it is to pay for it.
  • If they’ve been living at home. Their needs will be assessed by social services. However, there can be problems when there’s little by way of joined up thinking. For example, your parent’s doctor may recommend that they move into a care home, whereas social services may believe their care can be provided at home.

SAVVY TIP: The problem with social services – according to care experts – is that they tend to respond to, rather than prevent, a crisis. If you disagree with social services’ assessment, you have the right to challenge it.

When the NHS should pay for care

This is where the care system is very messy and confusing. If your relative is assessed as needing ‘continuing health care’, it will be paid for by the NHS. But if it’s social care, it’s means-tested.

  • A national care framework for care was introduced in 2007 with clearer guidance introduced in September 2009. However, there is still room for interpretation by the assessor.

SAVVY TIP: Contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service, which can provide advice and information about the NHS and try and help resolve problems or concerns.

  • You have a right to a review. If your parent is turned down for NHS funding, you should write to their primary care trust continuing care office and ask for a review.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re not happy with the result of that review, the primary care trust has to tell you who to take your complaint to. Contact Age UK or ring its free advice line on 0800 678 1602.

When the property may need to be sold

The rules on how savings and capital are assessed are complicated and vary between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In broad terms:

  • The value of property is not automatically included in the assessment. For example, the property’s value would be ignored if the person who needs care has a husband, wife, civil partner or partner living with them. It’s also ignored if a close relative lives with them who’s aged 16 or above 60, or under the age of 60 if they’re disabled.

SAVVY TIP: If the council decides that the property’s value will be taken into account, the rules say that it should be ignored for the first twelve weeks after someone goes into a home (it’s called the 12-week disregard). If, for example, the care home charges £500 a week, that’s £6,000 that the local council, and not your parent, would have to pay.

  • Once they’ve been offered the 12 week disregard, it’s a gateway to a payment option provided by local authorities, whereby they put a charge on the property but offer an interest-free loan for care fees. The fees are paid once the person needing care dies or the house is sold.

SAVVY TIP: Local authorities are supposed to tell you about the deferred payment option, but, ironically, they don’t have to offer it to you if they’ve run out of money.

Useful links:

You can find a list of companies that specialise in later life and care fees, and who also support what we’re trying to do at SavvyWoman, on the directory.

Related articles:

Understanding lasting powers of attorney

If you have a relative in a care home, can they lose their savings if it goes bust?

Understanding state benefits such as attendance allowance that elderly people who are ill or disabled can claim

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