Paying your own care costs if you’ve used all your savings

If the money you’ve been using to pay for your long-term care is running out, find out about other ways to fund your care and how to apply for it.

First steps – take stock of your situation

Even if money your is running low, it’s important to know that you are allowed to keep some savings and assets (such as your home) and still qualify for help with paying for your care

To qualify for help from your local authority (or in Northern Ireland, your local Health and Social Care Trust) your savings and certain assets need to be less than:

  • £23,250 – in England and Northern Ireland.
  • £28,500 – in Scotland.
  • £24,000 for care at home and £50,000 if you’re in a care home – in Wales.

If you’re a homeowner, the value of your home doesn’t count towards these limits if:

  • you’re receiving care at home; or
  • you’re in a care home, but your partner, spouse or another dependant still lives in your home.

Ask for a care needs assessment

If your savings are now below or close to the level where you might get help with funding, contact your local authority (or Health and Social Care Trust).

Ask for a care needs assessment. This is the first step to finding out if you now qualify for local authority or NHS support.

Try to do this about three months before you expect your savings to dip below the threshold. This is to give enough time to do the assessments for care needs and funding, and get everything in place before your money runs out.

Your local authority or trust can only provide funding from the date you contact them.

If the care needs assessment shows you’re eligible for support, your local authority or trust will arrange a financial assessment. This is to see if you qualify for funding.

This will look at your income, savings and assets. It might show that you no longer need to fully fund your own care.

The assessment could show that your care needs now mean you need a place in a care home. You might be offered a home care package, or a place in sheltered housing or similar accommodation.

Depending on the outcome of the financial assessment, you might still need to pay some of your care costs.

So it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.

Here are some helpful guides:

Check if you qualify for NHS continuing healthcare

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If you’re an adult with a disability or complex medical problem, you might qualify for free NHS continuing healthcare. If you’re in the same situation and under 18, you might qualify for free NHS continuing care.

It covers personal care and healthcare costs. This includes help with everyday living tasks, nursing care or paying for specialist therapy.

It might also include accommodation if the care is provided in a care home, or support for carers if you’re being looked after at home.

If your increased costs are due to worsening health or injury, you might now qualify for this free support.

There’s also a chance that the eligibility criteria have changed since you were last assessed.

You might not even have heard about this type of funding before.

Either way, it’s definitely worth talking to your doctor, carer or social worker.

Even if you don’t qualify now, it’s worth keeping the situation under review if your condition deteriorates.

In Scotland, NHS Continuing Health care was replaced by Hospital Based Complex Clinical Care in 2015. This will fully fund care but only in a hospital setting.

Will you be able to stay in your care home?

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If your latest care needs assessment states that your needs would be best met by living in a care home, your local council must offer you a place in at least one care home. Ideally, they should offer you a choice.

In Northern Ireland, the Health and Social Care Trust does this.

However, the options they offer you might not include the care home that you’re already in if you’re now relying solely on local council funding to pay for your care. This is because the amount local councils will fund is usually a lot less than care homes will charge people who are funding themselves

But this doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to move to another home.

First, check your contract with the care home. Some care providers will let you stay while you apply for funding. And they might accept the lower rate from your local council so you wouldn’t have to move out.

Will there be a shortfall between what you and the local council can afford, and what the home will charge? Then you might be able to get family or friends to top up your contribution. This is called a ‘third party contribution’.

Or there might be a charity or benevolent fund that can help you out.

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If this isn’t possible, you might be able to move to a cheaper or shared room in the same home.

If none of these options are possible, you might need to move to another care home that accepts the local council funding as full payment.

You do have the right to choose your care home, as long as it meets the local council’s criteria for your assessed needs.

Find our more in the ‘Choice and council funded care home placements’ factsheet on the FirstStop website

Funding long-term care if you’re a homeowner

If you’re a homeowner, there are several ways equity in your home can help fund your long-term care

Moving to a smaller property

This could free up the money you need to pay for your care. Moving somewhere better suited to your needs might also improve your quality of life and bring you closer to friends and relatives.

Using an equity release scheme

If you want to stay in your own home, you could look at schemes that release some of the capital in your home to pay for your care.

Using a deferred payment scheme

Your local council can offer you the option of delaying payments so you don’t have to sell your home to pay for a care home. This is known as a deferred payment, the availability of which is subject to qualifying criteria.

If you have enough equity in your home, a deferred payment agreement could allow you to pay for top-up care yourself and allow you to live in a more expensive care home than the local council will fund.

The local council will then reclaim what you owe in fees when you sell your house, or from your estate after your death.

In Northern Ireland there is no formal system of deferred payment agreements, although local Health and Social Care Trusts may facilitate this type of arrangement.

Renting out your home

Alongside the deferred payment scheme, you could choose to let your home. You could then use the rental income to reduce the amount you have to borrow from the local authority.

Using the 12-week property disregard

If you need to live in a care home permanently, you might be entitled to a 12 weeks period during which the value of your home will not be taken into account by your local authority when assessing your ability to pay.

This 12 week period is designed to give people time to prepare for their future. It enables you to work out what longer-term solutions will be right for you, before making any final solutions. It is also designed to give you time to see your property if that is the best course of action.

If you qualify, the local council must not include the value of your property in your financial assessment for 12 weeks. This is called a 12-week property disregard.

The local council will contribute to your care home fees during this time, or until you sell your property, if sooner.

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Has your local council not offered a 12-week property disregard on the grounds that you were a self-funding permanent care home resident? Then you can make a complaint about this decision and ask for it to be reviewed.

To find out how, see our guide on How to challenge your local council over your care.

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