Do I have to sell my home to pay for care costs?
- Posted: 20/01/22
- Category: Advice
The advice team at Citizens Advice North Lancashire helps numerous clients across the district with queries about their social care costs, how they can challenge decisions by social services, and where they can get help to make a challenge.
You might have heard in the news around September last year that there were calls for the government to reform the way that local authorities charge citizens for the costs of their adult social care. The government states in their policy paper that regulations and final guidance will be published in Spring 2022, with changes coming into force from October 2023.
You might have been left wondering what the current system is and how this might affect you if your circumstances change and you need help with your needs. This is why we’ve put together this article which summarises some of your rights and responsibilities when it comes to paying for social care costs.
What is social care?
Social care is a service which is provided by the local authorities, for example, the provider for residents in Lancaster and Morecambe is Lancashire County Council. Social care services are different to the services provided on the NHS, for example by a GP or hospital.
Social care services are put in place by recommendations made by social workers who carry out assessments and identify health and social care needs which aren't being met. The support you’re offered depends on your needs, for example you might be offered home care, day care services, supported living or dispersed housing, direct payments or a personal budget.
When do I have to pay for my care?
Whether you have to pay for social care services depends on your individual circumstances. When you’re being assessed, you’ll also be required to complete a financial assessment which looks at your ability to pay for your social care needs. The assessment will look at your income or savings, including income from pensions, some benefits and other assets.
This section of the Lancashire County Council website provides an overview of the financial assessment process and fact sheets setting out the financial implications of residential and non-residential care costs. We understand that it can be sometimes difficult to work out how a social care assessment will affect you financially.
What are some examples of the clients you’ve helped?
A common scenario we’re seeing at the moment is where an elderly person needs to care in their home. If the cared for person (and their partner or spouse) has £23,250 or more in savings or refuses a financial assessment, they’ll have to pay the actual cost of their services according to most recent guidance from Lancashire County Council. Otherwise, the situation becomes more complicated and they’ll need to provide more information about their income and expenses.
Another example we see is where an elderly relative, who owns or partly owns their home, needs to move to a residential care setting. They’re then left to consider selling or renting their home so that they can cover their care costs. According to guidance from Lancashire County Council, if you are the sole occupier of the home you own, then the value of this is not taken into account for assessment for care in the home. However, it will be if you require residential care - in a care or nursing home, unless you have a partner who continues to live in that home.
The local authority won’t take into account the value of the home if you're staying in a care home for a short time and you intend to go back to your own home later. The local authority also states in their guidance that they won’t take the value of your home into account if your home continues to be occupied by a relative who is age 60 or over, is incapacitated, or is under 18 and a child whom you would be liable to maintain.
If you are assessed as having to pay all or part of your costs for residential care, but the only asset you have is your home and no available cash then the council might 'loan' you the money under a ‘deferred payment’ scheme. This is done by registering a 'charge' on your property which has to be paid back to the charge holder either when you sell or from your estate after death. You will have to pay fees and interest under this scheme.
The value of ownership of the home, or any other savings, investments or capital, determines a ‘tariff income’. This is a figure based on the assumption that you’re generating an income by having access to the savings, investments and capital. If the total value of savings, investments and capital exceeds a set amount, it leads to a tariff income which is used to work out how much of the care costs they’ll have to pay. More details about the tariffs and how they work are provided in the information leaflets on the Lancashire County Council website.
These are just some examples of the assessment rules and how they work - everyone’s circumstances are different, so you’ll need to read the relevant leaflet in full. If you’ve looked at the rules on the Lancashire County Council website and you need more help to check you’re being charged the right amount, or how charges might affect you personally, please get in touch with our advice team for assistance.
What if I am unhappy with social services?
The first step to finding out whether you can challenge a decision by social services is to check the rules and policies first to see if there has been a mistake, our advice team may be able to assist you with this. You can also find information on the Citizens Advice website which explains what you can expect from adult social care services.
If you think there has been a mistake, you should make a formal complaint as soon as possible, following the Lancashire County Council complaints procedure. You’ll need to explain why you think the decision is wrong, what decision you think they should have made and provide them with any evidence to support this. When you complain, you should be given the right to appeal the first decision on your complaint.
If complaining doesn’t resolve things, you could make a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman within 12 months of the decision and you might also want to let your local Healthwatch know about the problem. You will not have to pay any fees to complain to these organisations. You can find out more about complaining to an Ombudsman on this section of the national Citizens Advice website.
Where can I get help?
Access Social Care is a national charitable organisation which provides assisted information on challenging social care decisions, this includes information resources and an automated webchat service which can help you to prepare a letter of complaint.
If you’re on a low income, you should check if you can get Legal Aid assistance from a community care solicitor to challenge the decision. The provider will carry out a means test which is free of charge. If you can afford solicitors free, you can find solicitors by specialisation and postcode on The Law Society website.
If you need more help, please call our FREEPHONE Adviceline on 0808 278 7882 or email email@example.com for a confidential discussion with one of our advisers.