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How to approach later life care

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National Insurance contributions go towards things like your State Pension but they don’t count towards the costs of social care. This type of care is managed by your local authority and generally comes at a price. That is why you have to apply directly to them if you need help with paying for long-term care. Your local authority (or Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland) will first carry out a Care Needs Assessment to find out what support you need.

The next step is to work out who is going to pay. Your local authority might pay for all of it, part of it or nothing at all. Your contribution to the cost of your care is decided following a financial assessment. This Means Test looks at:

  • your regular income – such as pensions, benefits or earnings
  • your capital – such as cash savings and investments, land and property (including overseas property) and business assets

If your income and capital are above a certain amount, you will have to pay towards the costs of your care.

If you own your home, the value of it may be counted as capital after 12 weeks if you move permanently into a residential care or nursing home. However, your home won’t be counted as capital if certain people still live there. They include:

  • your husband, wife, partner or civil partner
  • a close relative who is 60 or over, or incapacitated
  • a close relative under the age of 16 who you’re legally liable to support
  • your ex-husband, ex-wife, ex-civil partner or ex-partner if they are a lone parent.

Your local authority or trust might choose not to count your home as capital in other circumstances, for example if your carer lives there.

The maximum amount you have to pay towards your care is different, depending on where you live in the UK. The cost of living in residential care can be split into:

  • your ‘hotel’ costs, including the cost of accommodation and food
  • your personal care costs.

The cost of care differs around the United Kingdom, and this cost is usually higher where employment costs and housing are more expensive. In England and Wales you can find out how your local authority charges for the care services by first visiting the local authority website. In Scotland, the personal care you receive in a care home is free, if you’re over 65. If you’re in Northern Ireland, you can find your local Health and Social Care Trust on the nidirect website.

The one certainty of care is that, should you need it (and many of us will), you will be in a better position to receive exactly the sort of care you would like if you have some of your own funds set aside to cover the cost. Like the relationship between your state pension and your private pension, the former will only support you to one level. We save into additional pensions to ensure we have the retirement that we want. The same rules could really apply to our approach to care funding.