Help with paying for care

Care is expensive, and most people who need it usually have to pay at least something towards the cost. However, you may qualify for financial assistance from your local authority. This help could be anything from payments towards your care, to fully funded care if you can’t pay for it yourself.

How do I find out if I can get financial help?

If you need help looking after yourself, you can request a care assessment to determine about your needs. This free assessment is often the first step in getting help from your local authority. It looks at what tasks you find difficult and how you might be at risk (e.g. from accidents), and from this will make suggestions about your care eligibility and option.

To determine how much financial support you may receive, you will be asked to take a ‘means test’, which reviews your assets and income.

How does the means test work?

The means test looks at your regular income, savings, investments and other assets.

Your regular income includes payments like earnings, pensions and benefits. Your savings include any money you have saved in bank accounts, investments, property and business assets.

It’s important to note that the value of your home won’t be taken into account if you will continue to live there while receiving the care, or if your spouse or a dependant will be living there. If you are moving into residential care, however, the value of your home will be taken into account.

If your capital (i.e. savings and assets apart from your income) exceeds the threshold, you are unlikely to receive financial help with paying for care (but it’s still worth checking).

Region

Threshold

England

£23,250

Wales

£30,000

Scotland

£25,250

Northern Ireland

£23,250

From this table you can see that you are much more likely to receive financial help if you receive homecare, as the value of your home won’t be included in the means test.

Does my partner have to pay?

Only the assets that you yourself own will be taken into consideration during the means test. If you have a joint account with your partner, usually half of the money will be included in the assessment, but bank accounts held solely in your partner’s name won’t count. Some people split the money before the means test to prevent their partner’s money from being included. If you do this, remember that it must be split equally, or it could be consider to be a ‘deliberate deprivation of assets’ (see below).

It’s always worth speaking to a financial adviser first to help you work out the most sensible option for your situation.

What if I give away or spend my assets first?

Some people try to avoid paying for care by transferring the ownership of their assets to other people before the means test. However, this is called ‘deprivation of assets’ or ‘deliberate deprivation’. Local authorities are very vigilant for any attempt at doing this, such as transferring ownership of property to someone else, or giving away large lump sums. Even spending a lot of money in an unusual way may be consider to be deprivation of assets.

If your local authority has good reason to think that you have done something like this, they will still include the missing amounts in their calculations – this is called ‘notional capital’. So you will still most likely have to pay for your own care if you had the money to begin with.

Talk to a financial adviser if you are uncertain about how much you can reasonably spend or give away to avoid falling foul of this rule.

Direct payments or social care services?

If you are eligible for financial support, how will you receive it? You have two options. You can receive social services from your local trust, or receive money to pay for care that you choose yourself. This money is sent to your bank account, the Post Office or your National Savings’ account, and is known as ‘direct payments’.

When you choose to receive care directly from social services, this can be either homecare or residential care – if it’s the latter, you may not get a choice about which care home you are offered. This is why some people opt for direct payments instead, so as to have more control.

Direct payments must be spent on care and not on any other expenses, so be sure to keep accurate accounts of what you receive and spend. Although these payments may not cover all the costs of your care, they can be very useful in supplementing your own income and savings and give you greater choice over the care you receive.

To find out more about these two options, ask your social worker or your local authority.

Am I entitled to any disability benefits?

If you have a disability that affects your day-to-day life, health or wellbeing, you may be entitled to some benefits that can help cover the costs of your care and support. You may be eligible for funded care through the NHS for your disability, known as NHS Continuing Healthcare for adults or a continuing care package for children. The NHS will need to assess your needs separately to decide if you are eligible for the funding.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a tax free payment every four weeks between £22.65 and £145.35 that isn’t affected by your income or savings. It’s open to people who meet the criteria aged between 16 and 64 (it is replacing the Disability Living Allowance for people aged 16-24). This payment comes in two parts: a mobility portion that helps you pay for a car or mobility aids to get around more easily and a daily living payment that helps towards the costs of the personal care you need. If you think you may be entitled to the PIP, you will have to claim it from the government by filling in a form. How much you get is decided by how your condition affects your health and wellbeing.

Another tax free payment is the Attendance Allowance, which helps cover the cost of personal care rather than mobility needs. Again, it’s not affected by savings and income, and is based on how much personal care you need. There are a number of criteria you need to meet, and you could receive either £57.30 or £85.60 a week.

If you are receiving some benefits, you might find that you don’t have to pay as much council tax. You can apply for this discount through your local authority.

There are also a number of charities that offer grants to help fund the costs of care and support for people with certain disabilities.

Benefits for carers

If you are an unpaid carer (full time or part time) for someone else, such as a family member, then you may qualify for certain carers' benefits and tax credits. Find out more about the financial help available for carers.

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