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Getting local council funding for care costs


Local authorities oversee most elements of social care. If your friend or relative meets certain eligibility criteria then the council have an obligation to pay for some or all of their care. This includes if they need paid carers to help look after them in their own home, or if they need a more substantial level of care, such as in a care home.

Below we have provided an overview of everything you need to know about accessing local council financial support for care.

Whether your friend or relative is entitled to any support will depend on how much money they have in savings and assets. They will only be eligible for some help if they have less than £23,250 in total.

One exception to this means testing is if your friend or relative’s needs are primarily health-based, such as needing care after being discharged from hospital. This is then arranged and paid for by the NHS under what is known as NHS continuing healthcare (NHS CHC). It is free for everyone.

A further exception is if they need small pieces of equipment or minor home adaptations, costing under £1,000 each. The council must provide these to everyone who needs them for free, regardless of their financial situation. To find out more about this, take a look at our guide ‘Financial help from your local council for home aids and adaptations’.

This depends on how much money your friend or relative has saved up. The council could cover all of the cost of their care, part of the cost or none of the cost, depending on their financial situation.

If they have less than £14,250 in total, they will be entitled to the maximum funding available. If they have between £14,250 and £23,250 then they will be entitled to some funding, but not the maximum. If they have more than £23,250, they will not be entitled to any financial support from their local council until their savings drop below this threshold. In this situation, they will be expected to cover the costs of their care themselves – this is known as ‘self-funding’.

Even if your friend or relative is entitled to the maximum funding available from the council, this may still not cover all the costs of their care. In these circumstances, they will still be expected to cover some of it themselves or through support from others.

The council uses a financial assessment, also known as a social care means test, to understand how much they need to contribute towards the cost of someone’s care. The assessment is free and it will be arranged automatically following your friend or relative’s needs assessment.

A Financial Assessment Officer will come to the person you care for’s house and ask them some questions about their financial situation. This will include discussing any income, pension, benefits, savings, stocks and shares, business assets and property (including overseas) that they might have. If they have any joint savings or assets, these will also be taken into account. The council will assume that their share is half of the total of these joint funds, unless they can prove otherwise. The assessment will not take into consideration certain disability benefits, the value of any life insurance policies or how much your friend or relative’s possessions or valuables are worth. The amount of National Insurance they have paid throughout their life is also not considered.

To get around these checks, some people try to spend or give away money or property beforehand. This is known as ‘deprivation of assets’ and is not allowed. If the council thinks someone has deliberately tried to make it look like they have less money in order to be eligible for more support, they may not offer any help at all.

After the assessment, the council will write to your friend or relative and tell them how much the care they need will cost and how much they will be expected to contribute towards it themselves. Each council should publish details of its charging policy for any care it will be providing. They also must ensure that your friend or relative is not forced to give up all their income to pay for care. They must be left with a Personal Expenses Allowance (PEA) of at least £24.90 a week.

If the council is providing any financial support, then your friend or relative will be offered what is called a ‘personal budget’. To find out more about this, take a look at our guide ‘Personal budgets and direct payments’.

The council will reassess your friend or relative’s financial situation regularly to see if anything has changed in their entitlement to support. This usually happens once a year.

If you are not happy with the way the council carried out the financial assessment or think they have come to the wrong result, then start by speaking to the local authority directly. Ask them to explain their reasoning and their calculations, and if you are still unhappy you can make a complaint using their internal processes. If this doesn’t resolve the situation, then you should complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. For further information, take a look at our guide 'Making a complaint about the local authority'.

If you think your friend or relative would benefit from some advice about how best to manage their money in order to pay for their care, then you may want to encourage them to seek support from a financial advisor.

This depends on a number of factors. If they are able to stay in their own home and be cared for there by paid carers, then the council will not count the value of their house in the financial assessment.

However, if they require more involved care and need to permanently move to a care home for this, then the council will include the value of their house (or their share of the house if they only own part of it) in the assessment. This may mean they will end up needing to sell the property to pay for their care.

One exception to this is if certain people still live in the house, namely:

  • Their husband, wife, partner or civil partner.
  • A close relative who is aged over 60.
  • A close relative who is incapacitated.
  • A close relative under the age of 16 who they are legally liable to support.
  • Their ex-husband, ex-wife, ex-civil partner or ex-partner if they are a single parent.

If any of these people still live in the house, the council will not count the value of it in the financial assessment.

There may also be other circumstances where the council decides not to include the value of their house in their calculation, for example if you as their carer live in the house after having given up your own home to care for them.

If the council do include the value of the property in the calculation, it does not necessarily mean that your friend or relative will have sell their house immediately to pay for their care. They could instead ask to create a deferred payment agreement with the council. This means that they will not be paying for their care costs immediately, but instead effectively borrowing the funds from the council with this loan being repaid when the house is sold.

Also, if their savings are below the threshold for funding but the value of their home pushes them above it, they can benefit from what is known as the ‘12-week property disregard’. This is where the council doesn’t count the value of their house for the first 12 weeks after they move into a care home. For those 12 weeks, they would therefore receive funding from the local council towards their care. This is to give them a bit of breathing room and allow them time to sort out their finances so that they are able to self-fund their care after that.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

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