The cost of long term residential care for the elderly is set to increase dramatically, according to research from Liverpool Victoria, who predict that by 2025 the annual cost of care will be £33,000 per person. Tightening eligibility criteria for funding has meant that of the two million older people now in England with care-related needs, 800,000 do not receive any formal support to pay for their care. Age UK estimates that local government spending cuts will push this figure to one million over the next three years.

According to Age UK, four fifths of councils now only provide care to those with either substantial or critical needs and anyone who doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria of their local council has to pay for any care they need.

Your local council must assess the needs of anyone who appears to be in need of any form of community care. They will assess your needs compared with local eligibility criteria which can vary widely depending on where you live. Once your local eligibility has been assessed, the council will also assess your financial eligibility. Those with assets (including savings, investments and property, but not including life assurance or annuities) of more than £23,250 will be expected to fund the cost of their care. The value of your home won’t be taken into consideration if it is still occupied by your spouse, a relative who is aged more than 60 or is incapacitated, or a relation who is under 16.

Residents with assets between £14,250 and £23,250 will be expected to make some contribution towards the cost of their care, but those with assets below £14,250 should not have to make any contribution. If you are theoretically eligible to be fully funded by the council but you exercise your right to choose a care home which charges more than the council’s ‘usual rate’ you may have to make up the difference.

According to Age UK, council ‘usual rates’ sometimes bear no relationship to local market prices so there may be no places in an area at the council’s usual rate. In these instances councils will ask for third party top-ups – which could be paid for by relatives or charities.

In some circumstances, you may be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare. This is a package of care arranged and funded solely by the NHS either in your own home or in a care home. Eligibility rests mainly on your ‘primary health need’ i.e. whether your care is needed primarily for health reasons. The extent and severity of your health needs, as well as the quantity and quality of care needed to manage them, will be considered. If your long term care needs are clear, if it has been agreed that no further improvement in your condition can be expected or if your current level of care no longer seems appropriate, you could be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare. You should contact your GP in the first instance to find out about your eligibility and how to be assessed.

If you find you are not eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare, the next step could be to consider NHS-funded nursing care. It is simply a financial contribution to your nursing care in a nursing home by the NHS. This should only be an option if you feel a nursing home is the best place to meet your needs.

Before you consider any options, it is important to make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to, such as Pension Credits and Attendance Allowance, as these can help provide you with extra financial assistance. Pension Credits can supplement your income quite substantially – by as much as £137 a week, and depend solely on your income or capital, so will not be affected by any contribution your local authority provides towards residential care.

Do feel free to get in touch with us directly if you have any questions around this topic.

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