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Paying for elderly care: Q&A with Which? Elderly Care

(38 Posts)
LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 21-Mar-16 11:03:45

Alex Neill, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Which? Elderly Care, will be answering your questions on all aspects of financing elderly care, including eligibility for attendance allowance, moving parents into nursing homes, thresholds for when a local authority might pay for care and more.

(Note that Alex can only provide information about practical issues and for specific financial advice will have to recommend people seek advice from an independent financial adviser before making a decision.)

Alex Neill has worked at the consumer champion for over eight years. As a regular spokesperson for our high profile campaigns, she works to make consumers as powerful as the organisations they deal with in their day-to-day lives, and speaks about consumer issues ranging from personal finance to elderly care.

Which? Elderly Care gives free, independent and practical advice about caring for older people across the UK. Aimed at relatives, the site focuses on financing care, housing options and older people's needs, such as dealing with memory problems and accessing local authority and NHS care and support.

There is also a section for family carers, giving information about benefits, the carer's assessment and how to arrange respite care.

A care services directory is searchable by postcode for care homes, domiciliary care providers and local authority services for older people across the UK. In addition, a specially developed tool allows users to narrow down the wide-ranging information on the site to suit their particular needs.

Add your questions for Alex Neill by midday on 4 April and we'll have the answers up shortly after.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 15:50:22


What is the difference between attendance allowance and care allowance. Can both be claimed or just one or the other?

Attendance allowance is for people aged over 65 years who need help with personal care, such as washing, dressing or eating, due to an illness or disability. It isn't means tested and is available to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria.

Carer's allowance is available to family carers who are looking after someone for more than 35 hours a week. To be eligible you need to earn less than £110 per week after tax, among other criteria.

So, yes, both of these allowances can be claimed if the circumstances are right. You can read more about the criteria and how to claim on Which? Elderly Care: attendance allowance and carer's allowance.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 15:52:30


When the local authority charge, does any money in the name of the 'fit' spouse come into the case? (Scotland)

Without knowing more about your circumstances, it is difficult to say. For further information visit the Scottish Government website.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:06:27


My husband will soon be needing to be moved to a nursing home. We have no savings to speak of. I will be staying in our home. If I should die would my husbands fees then have to come from the sale of the house? Or, if I needed to go into care while my husband is alive and in care, would the house be used for both our fees? Thank you.

As long as you are living in your home, its value won't be taken into consideration when the local authority run their needs and financial assessments for your husband's care. If you look at our page on Paying for care, we explain the basics for how care home fees are paid.

If you were to also move into a care home or die while your husband is in care, then - yes - the value of your home would be taken into consideration for how your and your husband’s care fees are paid.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:06:57


I've read recently about investing in a buy-to-let room in a care home which you can then use yourself when the time comes. Is this a good idea and a safe investment? We are thinking of down sizing in the near future and wondered if this might be a solution to care home fees.

We suggest that you treat these schemes with extreme caution as this is an unregulated investment and therefore your money would be at risk.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:08:44


My Mum has recently been diagnosed with mixed dementia and I want her to come and live with me. If we sell her property and hold the money in case of her eventually needing to go into a care home, can I draw an income from the proceeds of the sale to cover the cost of caring for her myself?

We can quite understand why you might want to pursue this plan, Kjnicholl, but there are several issues that you need to be aware of before going any further, including:

1. If you draw an income for caring, you could technically be an employee of your mother, with attendant tax liabilities and minimum wage and holiday requirements. You might also need to be trained and regulated. On the other hand, if the money withdrawn is just used to cover expenses, such as taxis, adaptations and respite care, this is less likely to be an issue.

2. As your mother has been diagnosed with mixed dementia, does she have the capacity to require to such an arrangement? If she doesn't have the capacity, is there a registered lasting power of attorney in place? The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) could consider this a conflict of interests and they might want to take into account how much money is paid per hour and the quality/amount of the care provided.

If you want to look into this further, then talk to a solicitor.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:10:07


The most worrying aspect can occur when someone has to go into care and a decision has to be made regarding 'Continuing Care', particularly if the person needing care is a home-owner.

There is a massive backlog of hundreds of cases in Sussex regarding people not being properly assessed at the correct time and families having to fight to get an assessment done. This has left families paying out of their own pockets, believing that when the assessment is done they will be reimbursed, but waiting years for a final decision - and then finding that they do not qualify for reimbursement. Others have sold the person's home in a frantic rush, at a knockdown price just to release the money within the three month time limit that has been foisted on them (This was on BBC Radio Sussex this morning)

What should families do in this situation?

This is a complex question and so we are focusing here on people who are considering applying for continuing care. The NHS should make a decision within 28 days of it being decided that the person needs a full assessment for continuing healthcare. If it takes longer than this and the person needing care is deemed eligible for this support, then the NHS should pay retrospectively to the due date of completion.

With the 12-week property disregard period being available to those who meet the criteria, which can then turn into a deferred payment agreement with the local authority, there is therefore no imperative for a house to be sold within three months.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:12:33


Is it always the case that a home owner's property must be sold to pay for care should it become necessary? What happens if the property doesn't sell quickly enough? Who foots the bill for the ongoing care?

A homeowner's property doesn't necessarily have to be sold to pay for care (we mention above how lots of people are letting their homes to pay for care), although if that person has no other form of savings or other assets and lives alone in their home, then it's a possible option. This will especially be the case if the local authority is partially or fully funding the place in the care home.

However, if a property isn't selling, all local authorities in England are now required to offer a long-term loan known as a deferred payment agreement to people who meet certain criteria. If you qualify for a deferred payment agreement, you can't be forced to sell your home during your lifetime. Councils must now wait until the death of the resident at which point they can pursue the estate for the repayment of the money owed.

You can read more about deferred payments on this page of Which? Elderly Care, together with information about the 12-week property disregard, which means that under certain circumstances the local authority must ignore the value of a property for the first 12 weeks of an older person's stay in a care home.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:15:24


My Mum has less than the £23, 250 in savings but I was told during her assessment that she has to contribute because her savings are at the top end of this limit. Huge bills keep coming.
So this figure is a myth isn't it?

I discovered top up fees paid for by the family when my mum went into care, for the best care homes they are huge, can I use her savings to pay them?

Also care homes charge a huge range of fees, so choice is only for the wealthy, most LCC care homes are full, it's inevitable that if you need care you will pay all you have isn't it?

I know too late about making the right provision in your will, leaving money in trust, also safeguarding some of the value of the house. Not leaving everything to your spouse so that the children have no legacy after everything is taken in care home fees. My parents did non of that. But what is your opinion on how we prepare our finances for future care?

Thank you in anticipation for helping with such worrying financial issues for families.

There are two levels of threshold that the local authority works to. If your mum's savings and assets are less than £14,250, then all her bills will be paid by the local authority, but when someone's capital is between £14,250 and £23,250, then a contribution on a sliding scale would be made. The rules are complex, so if you go to Getting local authority funding for a care home on the Which? Elderly Care website you will find more information.

For top-up fees, they have to be paid by a third party and not from your mother’s savings, which is why they are more usually referred to as third-party top-up fees. However, do bear in mind that if someone is assessed by social services as needing a care home, that they have a duty to meet this need. Furthermore, if a resident has under £23,250 in income and assets, the local authority must assist in identifying a care home that doesn’t require a top-up, has a vacancy and meets the assessed needs.

If you want to talk through options for planning for future care, we have a free Elderly Care Money Helpline where we can give you more information.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:17:21


What happens please for the following scenario:
Pensioners with a mortgage, house in one name only
No savings

What would the choices be if any, should one need care? Thank you

Regardless of income, everyone is entitled to a local authority needs assessment should the time come when one or both of you need care either at home or in a care home. If the result of this assessment is that the council draws up a care plan for you, then you will also have a financial assessment.

If it is care at home that is required or just one of you is moving into a care home, then the value of your home won't be taken into consideration.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:19:16


Although both fit and healthy, I would like to know how we can ensure that our family receive at least some of the proceeds from our house rather than it go into care home fees. Our house is in both our names and at present our wills leave the estate to each other and on both our deaths it is to be shared equally amongst our children. We have worked hard in our lives and want to ensure that there is a legacy safeguarded for the family. How do we achieve this?

There are many methods suggested by law firms and financial advisers with regards to how to can 'protect' your assets from care costs, however the simple answer is that there is no absolute way to safeguard your assets.

While you may wish to discuss legal arrangements such as will trusts and lifetime trusts with your solicitor, they should explain to you that rules relating to deliberate deprivation of assets may still apply.

A deprivation of assets occurs where a local authority believes that you have intentionally deprived yourself of an asset to avoid it being used to pay for care. In these instances they may decide to pretend that you still have the asset or take legal action through the courts to reverse any transaction.

In certain circumstances, changing the ownership of your property from a 'joint tenancy' to 'tenants in common' can protect a portion of the property from care costs. Speak to your solicitor for more information.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:23:37


We don't own property but we have sole savings accounts (Isa's and Premium bonds) if one of us needs to go into a care home would the local authority have legal access to the others savings accounts.

If only one member of a couple requires care home funding then the council do not have the legal authority to view the bank accounts for the other one - only the income and savings of the person requiring care can be taken into account in the assessment (and even then 50% of occupational/private pensions can be passed back to the spouse/civil partner remaining at home). However they may ask for these details to ensure that the spouse/partner remaining at home has sufficient savings/income to live on.

If you choose to have a financial assessment following a needs assessment (see our answer to Izabella, above) and fall beneath the means test threshold, the local authority won't fund your care if you don't give them access to the relevant savings accounts as part of a financial assessment. If your individual savings are less than £14,250 and the local authority has assessed that you need to move to a care home, then they will pay all your care home fees. If your savings are between £14,250 and £23,250, then you will have to contribute to the fees (see also our answer to Nana3, above). More than £23,250 and you will have to pay your own fees until such a time as you fall beneath the threshold.

We explain what happens when savings run out on our page Self-funding a care home.

AlexNeill Wed 06-Apr-16 16:26:42


Much of the money from my mother's house went on care home fees.

Our situation is that we are second time married. We own our home as tenants in common with my husband leaving his share of the house to his children and me to mine. The surviving partner has the right to live in the house as long as it is maintained. We have a joint account for bills but all our savings are kept separate and left to our children, not each other.

Does this sound sensible please?

Liz 46, Your situation sounds very similar to carole01, so we suggest that you read our answer, which we hope will help.