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How do I pay for care?

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Understanding the options for funding care is far from easy. In this article, we explain some of the key concepts you should know

How do I know what my care needs are?

When thinking about care, the first step is to work out what type of care you need. This is not always as straightforward as it seems. As described here, there are many different types of care including hourly care for help with day-to-day activities (a carer who visits one, two, three or four times a day), nighttime care (which may be a ‘waking night’ when the carer is awake or a ‘sleeping night’ when they are available if needed) and 24/7 live-in care. Regardless of the amount of savings you have and how your care will be paid for, everyone is entitled to a free care needs assessment by their local authority (council). You may also have been provided with a needs assessment if you recently left hospital, but if you are unsure (or if you think your needs have changed) then definitely contact the council.

In Essex, you can use the following links to book a care needs assessment depending upon where you live: Essex County Council, Southend on Sea Borough Council, Thurrock Council

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Everyone is entitled to a free care needs and financial assessment by their local authority

How do I know if I need to pay for my care?

If your council determine you have care and support needs, they will provide you with a free financial means assessment. This assessment looks at your income (e.g. pensions and benefits) and assets (e.g. savings, investments, property and land). Generally speaking, if your income and assets are less than £23,250, you will be eligible for means-tested support to help pay for your care, but if they are more than £23,250 you are classified as a ‘self-funder’ and have to pay the entire cost of care yourself. The value of your home is usually not included if you have care in your own home (domiciliary care), but is included if you permanently move to a care home- your local council will be able to give detailed information on how it works in your area.

In certain situations, people with ongoing, long-term, complex medical needs may be eligible for NHS-funded care, or ‘Continuing Healthcare’ (CHC). This is not means-tested. However, there are strict criteria for eligibility for CHC-funded care about which you can find out more here.

If I need to self-fund, is any financial help still available?

Yes. There are several benefits you may be entitled to which are not means-tested, including attendance allowance (a benefit for people over the state pension age who need extra help to stay independent at home due to illness or disability) and the personal independence payment (to help with extra living costs if you have both a long-term physical or mental health condition and difficulty in doing certain everyday tasks). A Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) may also be provided to you by your local authority to help adapt your home. This is specifically to allow for improved access to floors and rooms and to make it more suitable for your needs. It can either be fully or partially funded.

Age UK have an excellent tool to help determine eligibility for a range of benefits which can be found here.

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Working out the financial cost of care can be extremely stressful, but there is help and support available. You may also be entitled to more than you think.

After I have claimed the benefits I am entitled to, what next?

There are many ways that people fund the cost of their care:

  1. Use of savings, income from investment and pension, with or without a ’third party top up’ (family or friends)
  2. Immediate needs annuity- an initial upfront payment to an insurance company who then guarantee that ongoing care costs are covered. The level of the payment is usually a function of age, general health, life expectancy and the expected level of care needs
  3. Insurance policies- this may include long-term care needs insurance, income protection or life insurance in the event of a terminal illness
  4. Equity release to access the cash value of your home
  5. Deferred payment scheme- where the council makes a legal agreement to provide financial support for your care costs, on the condition they will be repaid from your property at a later date.

For more information on funding care in your home, please see the government Money Helper and Age UK websites which contain lots of useful information. These decisions are often very personal, based on your specific circumstances. Age UK offer a free, independent advice line on 0800 6781602, which is open from 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. If you need further help in deciding which options work for you, particularly around the logistics of how to set them up, it may also be worth seeking help from an independent financial advisor.

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Be sure to use many of the free resources available to understand your options for funding care

How does CareCompare fit in?

For individuals whose care is funded by the council, this may mean that you do not have a choice of care company as many councils have block contracts with specific care companies in their region. However, if you are self-funding then you do have a choice (and you may also have a choice if the council provide you with a ‘personal budget’). This is where CareCompare can help, by giving quick and reliable information on available care providers in your area and allowing you to compare them based on availability, price and expertise. Whilst there are directories of care providers in each area, it is difficult and time-consuming to work out which ones are available (as this often changes from week to week), can meet your needs (as some care companies only offer specific services or durations of care) and to review their latest registration status and inspection reports by the Care Quality Commission. CareCompare gives you all this information in one place.

Please note that the views expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect any other person or organisation. The information was correct at the time of writing but may have changed. If you need more help in understanding how to pay for care, please contact your local council or Age UK branch who will be able to offer support and advice.

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