If you have to arrange care for an elderly relative, whether it’s in their own home or in a care home, they may have to pay for it themselves or it could be fully paid for by the state, depending on what type of care they need, how ill they are and how much savings or assets they have. Here’s a guide to the range of help that’s available from the state and when they may have to pay the entire cost themselves.
1. NHS Continuing healthcare funding
This is when the entire cost of someone’s care is paid for by the NHS. It’s not means tested so it doesn’t matter how much someone has by way of savings or property.
- You only get this funding if your health needs are complex and you need a lot of nursing care.
- You have to be assessed to qualify for this funding.
2. Registered nursing care contribution
This is different to NHS continuing care funding. Here, someone who needs care in a nursing home and who is paying their own fees has their nursing care paid for by the NHS to the nursing home.
- You can only get it if you are in a care home that’s registered to provide nursing care (generally a nursing home).
- It is paid at a flat rate of £165.56 in England for tax year 2019-20. In Wales it’s £149.67 (2018-19) a week, it’s £100 a week in Northern Ireland (2018-19) and £80 a week in Scotland, although you can also get payment for personal care of up to £177 a week.
SAVVY TIP: If your relative was assessed for nursing care before October 2007 in England, they may receive more as the nursing care contribution was paid in three bands. People who received the highest band (around £227.77 a week in tax year 2019-20) are still entitled to that. Those on the lower two bands are entitled to £165.56 a week.
- The money is paid direct to the nursing home. It means that if you pay part of the costs yourself, you’re unlikely to see a reduction in the amount you pay, as it’s the social services department that will benefit from any contribution to nursing care costs.
3. Local authority/social care funding
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, support is means tested.
- If you have less than around £14,250 in savings and capital (which could include your house), your savings aren’t taken into account in England or Northern Ireland. However, any income you receive from pension or benefits can be used to pay for your care. The rest is paid by the local authority, although it may not pay the amount of the care home fee.
- In Wales, there is a single capital limit of £40,000 and there is no lower limit. If you have less than £40,000 you qualify for some financial support.
- If you have between £14,250 and £23,250 and are in England or Northern Ireland, you are assumed to have £1 a week in income for each £250 you have of savings/capital.
SAVVY TIP: The value of your home is ignored if you have a short term stay in a care home or if your husband/partner or relative lives there and is aged over 60.
- In Scotland, the upper threshold is £26,500 and the lower threshold is £16,500. Contrary to popular belief, care in a care home is not free if you’re in Scotland, but you can get an allowance to pay for but they can get nursing and personal care paid for if they are over 65.
SAVVY TIP: In Scotland, if you’re over 65 and get free personal care, you’re not eligible for Attendance Allowance (a non means-tested benefit) after four weeks. However, if you get help with nursing care costs but not personal care, you’re still entitled to Attendance Allowance.
4. Section 117 Aftercare
If your relative is sectioned under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act (which means they can be compulsorily admitted for treatment for up to six months), they may be entitled to funding under Section 117 aftercare. This means that their care will be paid for (and not on a means-tested basis) by the local authority. The Alzheimer’s Society has information about Section 117 aftercare in its factsheet called Paying for care.
- The local authority has to agree to funding (it normally has to go to a ‘panel’ for assessment).
- There is no guarantee that funding will continue indefinitely. Section 117 aftercare funding can be reviewed and, if someone no longer qualifies, it can be stopped. However, I’d advise you to seek help — either from a relevant charity or lawyer specialising in this area — if you’ve been told that a relative no longer qualifies for it.
- The local authority will have a financial limit on how much it pays for care in a nursing home, so your choice of homes may be limited.
SAVVY TIP: Don’t feel that you won’t be able to find a good care home if your relative is being funded by the local authority. Make sure you do your research. Visit several nursing homes, talk to anyone who has experience of them (a friend or neighbour who works in the care or nursing profession or anyone whose relative is in a care home).
Symponia, SavvyWoman’s long term care experts and founder sponsors of the website, have produced a guide to paying for care fees. You don’t have to leave your email or telephone details if you don’t want to, you can download it directly from their website. Here’s the link to it: Care fees planning
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