Long-term care

The UK population is growing older fast. Government statistics suggest the number of people aged 65+ (just 17% in 2010) will rocket up to 23% by 2035 (and that means tens of millions). We all have to plan for long-term care. More families now than ever are facing difficult decisions about the care and well-being of loved ones. So, understanding what a person may be entitled to is becoming ever more crucial to any decision being made.

What do I have to pay for long-term care?

Most of us are expected to pay something towards the cost of our accommodation and personal care from our income and capital. How much depends on a needs assessment and a means test if a local authority is involved with arranging our placement.

Anyone who owns capital and savings above £23,250 needs to pay the “standard rate” (full fee). (If you live in a care home that provides nursing care by a registered nurse, the NHS has to meet the cost of that care.)

NHS-funded nursing care, which is paid at the same rate across England, is £112 per week for the financial year 2015/16 (standard rate). The higher rate payment for certain residents already in a care home on 1 October 2007 is £154.14 per week.

When do I become eligible for state funding?

Residents with capital between £14,250 and £23,250 are expected to make some contribution from their capital as well as income.

Both your income and capital are taken into account in the local authority means test. Your capital will be assessed to show an assumed (or ‘capital tariff’) income. For every £250 or part of £250 of capital between £14,250 and £23,250 you will be assessed as though you have an extra £1 per week income.

If you need care but are living at home or with family or friends, you will generally only receive help if your capital/savings are below £14,250,

Again, if you have capital/savings below £14,250, you will only be expected to contribute from income, less £23.90 per week retained for your personal expenses.

Local authorities cannot assess the joint resources of couples. They can only look at your own income and capital, including income and savings in your sole name. Any jointly held savings will be divided equally (other than property where it is the resident’s actual share that is taken into account).

Most forms of capital and savings will be included in the means test, including bank or building society accounts, National Savings accounts, Premium Bonds, stocks and shares, and property (building or land).

Why are capital/savings limits imposed?

The upper capital/savings limits are to help protect the level and quality of social care services, The limits enable local authorities to raise additional revenue from residential care charges to pay for these services.

When do I qualify as an exception?

There are certain exceptions within the funding rules. The NHS must meet the full cost of your care in a care home if you are a resident whose ‘primary need’ for being in care is health-based. This is called NHS continuing healthcare and is often described as ‘fully funded care’.

"Free care does not normally last longer than six weeks, but at the end of this period you may qualify for fully-funded NHS care"

There is also intermediate care. If you are in a care home as part of a package of rehabilitation, re-ablement or intermediate care (short-term therapy or treatment, either following time in hospital or to avoid hospital), there is no charge. Government guidance says: “Re-ablement services are likely to fall within the definition of intermediate care services and should not be charged for the first six weeks.” Free care does not normally last longer than six weeks, but at the end of this period you may qualify for fully-funded NHS care, or have other social care services for which you may be charged.

Watch this space?

Proposed social care funding changes under the government’s Care Act legislation to be introduced from April 2020 include a new lifetime cap on care costs. This means no one will have to pay more than £72,000 for their care. This would not include bed and board costs, which are to be capped at £12,000 a year. It is also proposed to raise the upper and lower assessment limits from £23,250 and £14,250 to £118,000 and £17,000 – this means if you have capital/savings of less than £118,000, you will receive at least some financial support towards care costs if you need to move to a care home.

Conclusion

In many cases, long-term care is the only solution, and the most worrying aspect for most people is how to pay for it. If the costs are met by using savings or investments, this money may well run out, particularly if the person in care lives longer than expected. Thus, it is very important to consider seeking professional advice on this complex subject.

If you have any questions about elderly care or would like to book an initial consultation, please call us at Guardian Solicitors on 0203 301 6600 or email info@GuardianSolicitors.co.uk Guardian Solicitors, Hertfordshire and London

NHS continuing healthcare

What is it?

It is a care package funded solely by the NHS. It is awarded to those whose primary need is health-based, and it can be provided in a range of settings, including an NHS hospital, a care home or someone's own home.

What is the national framework for NHS continuing healthcare?

In October 2007 the Department of Health produced new guidance that sets out a system for deciding eligibility for NHS continuing healthcare. This is called the National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare and NHS funded Nursing care.