Under the Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015, there is a new single national system of eligibility threshold for adults with care and support needs across the country. This ended the post code lottery for social care as, prior to this, it was left to the local authorities to set their own eligibility criteria themselves which varied from one local authority to another.
This is a big change, as all local authorities will now have to follow a set of criteria stated in the regulations to secure care provision to people who need help and those who are disabled. The introduction of the minimum eligibility threshold is one of the biggest changes in the social care system.The Care Act has highlighted the local authorities’ duties in assessing the needs of people who need help and their eligibility for publicly funded care and support.
The Care Act is related to the adult social care and everyone who is in need of assistance is entitled to help in organising and maybe, paying for care. Your Local Social Services department is there to help and advise Social care covers the range of care and support services that enable disabled people to remain independent and safe and be active, in order to be an integral part of the community.
To find out what support you may be entitled to, you will need to contact your GP, district nurse or local authority for a health and social care assessment. The assessment is not binding and you may decide a different course of action if you wish.
The process is a single assessment procedure combining the assessment for local authority social services with health care. During this assessment full details of assets,including property owned by the person needing care will need to be disclosed.
Upon completion of the assessment, the local authority is able to decide who is eligible for their support..
The Care Act applies to England only and separate laws for social care apply in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Care Act introduced some important changes to the rules that councils must follow when supporting people needing social care.
Under this criteria, councils must not look at people's personal needs in isolation, but their general health and well being too. So the assessment will take a whole view of a person's needs and include items such as work and housing needs too - even if the authority doesn't provide those services itself.
If is is judged that a person does not meet the eligibility criteria, they must still support people to identify the help they need and to plan how to get it.
The assessment usually comprises of three stages:
- Assessment of a persons circumstances and needs
- Defining what needs must be dealt with by the local authority as they fall within its eligibility criteria
- If appropriate, a financial assessment.
It should be noted that local authorities have the power to make sure that assets have not been transferred or given away to avoid paying for care.
Local Authority Support Thresholds
England and Northern Ireland £23,250, Wales £50,000 and Scotland £28,000.
For those whose capital is between the upper and lower limits, £1 per week has to be paid to the local authority for every £250 of assets above the lower limits. If their available capital is below the upper limits but above the lower limits, they will be entitled to some support.
The lower Local Authority Support Threshold limits are:
England and Northern Ireland £14,250, Wales £50,000 for those in residential care and £24,000 for non-residential care, and Scotland £17,500.
Those with capital less than the Local Authority lower limit will be entitled to the maximum financial support so, as you can see, for those living in Wales, with the upper and lower capital limit for Wales standing at £50,000 for those in residential care, maximum financial support will start from below £50,000 whereas in England or Northern Ireland, it would not commence until capital had reduced to £14,250 or £17,500 for those in Scotland.
People with assets above the local authority threshold limits, apart from a few exceptions, will need to make their own arrangements to pay for the care they need as local authorities won’t provide care services if you have more than the lower limits in savings and property (known as "capital").
It is advisable to seek qualified professional advice before making any financial decisions, especially if you want to remain financially independent or perhaps leave an inheritance for your family. Paying for care is a huge financial commitment and establishing a method of meeting the costs is essential if you do not want your entire assets consumed down to the Local Authority limits. If you are in this situation, please click here for further information.
Trying to avoid care home fee payments
Sometimes people deliberately transfer ownership of their assets to someone else in order to reduce what they pay in care home fees. If the local council believes this has happened they may assess you differently than in the normal assessment procedure:
- if assets were transferred within the six months before you moved into care, the council can recover the cost of your stay from whoever received the gift
- if the transfer happened more than six months before you moved into care, they can assess you as if you still own the assets
There is no time limit as to how far back the council can go to find out if you have given away assets to avoid care costs.
Further information about the changes to the care system in England are outlined in Care and Support & You which has been produced by the Department of Health. This very comprehensive guide outlines the changes that are coming in and how it affects you. Access it here.
Further information on the separate laws for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland below:
- In Scotland,the Public Bodies (Jointworking) Act about the integration of health and social care was granted royal assent on 1 April 2014 and the NHS and councils are beginning to work towards this www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Support-Social-Care
- In Wales,the Social Services and Wellbeing Act (Wales) became law on 1 May 2014, and the areas covered by the Act including assessment of needs, financial assessments,adult safeguarding and complaints will start to take effect from April 2016 www.legislation.gov.uk/anaw/2014/4/contents
- In Northern Ireland, changes have also been made to the social care system www.transformingyourcare.hscni.net