Care fees are often an issue not considered until care is required. They are an issue that benefit from being given some thought before this stage and also that remain difficult to navigate for those paying them and for families who are just trying to help an elderly relative.
This blog aims to serve as a one-stop-shop giving you and your family all the information you may need to navigate the world of care fees.
Paying for Care
The reality today is that almost every individual will end up paying for their own care. The current threshold for care stands at £23,500 and anyone with assets above this will be expected to contribute to their own care.
The first stage for anyone seeking social care is a care needs assessment. A social care professional will have the responsibility of assessing the individual needs of the party requiring care. The assessment will take account of a wide range of factors from physical care needs to more personal needs, such as maintaining relationships with family. This assessment will produce a care plan and proposals to help meet the needs of the party requiring care.
The local authority must then calculate how much this level of care is likely to cost and this is known as a “personal budget”. A financial assessment will be conducted to establish the contribution of the local authority to this personal budget and consequently the contribution of the person needing care.
Where the care plan involves a move to a care home, the local authority must be able to demonstrate there is at least one place in a care home that:
- Meets the care needs
- Does not cost more than the person budget; and
- Has a place available.
If a more expensive arrangement than the one established in their assessment is requested, a third party will be required to settle the difference between the required fees and the personal budget. This payment is known as a “third party top-up fee”.
Normally this top-up fee cannot be paid by the person requiring care, unless:
- They have just moved into care and are in the 12-week property disregard period.
- There is a deferred payment agreement with the local authority.
- Accommodation is being provided under s117 Mental Health Act 1983.
Before agreeing to pay a third party top-up fee for a loved one it is important that consideration is given to your financial affairs. For example, if there is likely to be a change in circumstances that may affect your ability to make the contribution.
The local authority must not set a personal budget so low that a top-up fee would be required to meet the level of assessed care. If you feel that the personal budget is not sufficient to provide for the care needs, you may challenge the budget.
The Risk of Deliberate Deprivation
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ordinary persons reaction to the care fee issue is to consider giving their assets away to bring them below the care fee threshold. However, it is not quite so straightforward.
If the local authority, consider that assets have been given away for the purpose of avoiding paying for care fees, they may still include them when assessing your contribution. We therefore recommend you tread carefully and take the proper legal advice when gifting away assets.