Care Myth-Busting

Industry experts at My Care Consultant flag up the top 10 Care myths you need to know.

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Falling firmly into the 'boring but important' category, these myth-busting tips are a must-read for anyone entering or in the care maze.

1. It's free!

FALSE - Care isn't free and it's easy to confuse healthcare services (which are free of charge via the NHS) and social care services (eligibility for which is means-tested by your local authority) - which means that, if you have income or wealth, you may be asked to contribute or pay in full for services.

In England*, if you have more than £23,250 in savings or assets (including your property, if no one else lives there), you will usually have to pay the full cost for social care fees.

If you have less than £23,250, or your spouse or another dependent still lives in your home, you may qualify for council-funded social care. The rules setting out how these payments work are set nationally by the Government.

Before any person is means-tested, they should first be considered for NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC) funding. It's only if they are not eligible for NHS CHC funding that their money should even be discussed. This almost always happens the wrong way round, with people being asked about their money from the outset.

2. It's not worth applying for free NHS Continuing Health Care funding because it only covers specialist needs and doesn't apply to people with dementia

FALSE - so many people are told this by people in all parts of the care industry. For example, it is not unusual for NHS CHC to be denied on the basis that forms of dementia like Alzheimer's disease aren't considered a "Primary Health Need" which is not the case. This kind of free funding is about your day-to-day health and related care needs - whatever the underlying diagnosis.

If funding has been denied and you want to appeal, you need to present your case against the criteria within something called the Decision Support Tool (used to assess eligibility). To lodge an appeal against a NHS decision to refuse you CHC, it's advisable to quote relevant case history and case law where successful appeals have previously been made. This is why professional advice is important.

3. If I run out of money because I have had to pay for my social care, the state will pick up the cost

FALSE - The amount Local Authorities pay towards the cost of care is often lower than the actual cost of delivery, and therefore a 'top up' amount from a 3rd party may be required to pay for your chosen care. If top up money is not available and you run out of money, you will then have to rely fully on the State to pay for your care.

At this point, you could find yourself with a restricted choice of where you receive care (i.e receive care in an environment that the Local Authority choose for you, at a level they deem meets your needs, which may not be what you feel you need or want).

4. If I have to pay for my own social care, I don't need to pay a Financial Adviser: I already know I have to pay for my care myself and I've either got the money or I haven't

FALSE - In respect of paying for care, the importance of advice from a Financial Conduct Authority registered financial adviser (with appropriate 'paying for care' qualifications) should not be underestimated. They are the ONLY individuals who are legally able to advise on all ways to pay for care, including a way to guarantee payments for life (known as an Immediate Care Annuity or Care Plan), as well as providing you with a personal recommendation as to the most appropriate way to pay based on your unique circumstances.

We believe that it's only by securing an underwritten quote for an Immediate Care Annuity, you can know the cost of guaranteeing payments for life and can sensibly make an informed decision as to whether this or alternatives are the best way to pay for your care. By not seeking financial advice, you run a greater risk of running out of money whilst funding your care.

5. Attendance Allowance (AA) can't be paid when receiving care from within a residential care home

FALSE - AA is a non-means-tested benefit payable as a regular cash payment by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to older people as a contribution towards the cost of living with a disability.

It is possible to receive the AA benefit when in residential care, in fact, it has been estimated that currently more than 20% of people paying for their own care currently should be receiving it, but are not.

Claiming AA won't reduce any other income you receive, and it's tax-free. If you're awarded it, you may also become entitled to other benefits such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, or an increase in these benefits.

6. I should regard the information from Local Authorities (social care) and Clinical Commissioning Groups (healthcare) as factual when told I do not qualify for benefits/social or health care funding support

NOT NECESSARILY - We have a complex social and health system in England and it is a postcode lottery as to the information and the standard of service you receive from your Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Group. We recommend getting independent expert support to help you navigate the system, establish a clear pathway and joined up approach in meeting your needs and in helping you get your entitlements.

7. Care in my own home will be more expensive than in a residential care home


FALSE - It is commonly thought that receiving care in your own home (Domiciliary Care) is very expensive and on the whole unaffordable. This is often not the case, as staying at home means you will not have to pay 'accommodation' costs like you do in a care home. Also, bear in mind that you can arrange a 'care package' at home to suit you. This could include arranging for a carer to visit at certain points daily, or weekly, to keep costs down. There is the option to arrange 'live in care' which is often affordable based on the fact that your carer will live with you in your home (they will have no rent or mortgage to pay, so it is often a win/win situation keeping living costs down for you, and them).

Domiciliary care is becoming increasingly popular and research shows that staying at home for as long as possible can be good for well-being.

8. I should gift my assets to loved ones, so the state will pay for my care

BEWARE - To deliberatively deprive yourself of assets where the main or significant purpose is to avoid paying for care and falling back on state support is known as 'deliberate deprivation of assets'. Local Authorities have extensive powers where they find deliberate deprivation, and can treat such gifts as 'notional capital' which means they treat the donor (the person giving away the asset) as having retained the value of the gift as if the gift had not been made. This will affect the eligibility for local authority funding.

When deciding if deprivation was 'deliberate' the local authority might typically look at the following...

  • Motive/intention: when disposing of assets, was the main reason to avoid care charges?
  • Timing: there is no set time limit, they can go back several years and have extensive legal powers. Most importantly, they will look at the time between the person realising that they needed care and the disposal of assets.
  • Amount: was the gift a significant amount that would make a difference to the capital limits used to determine eligibility? The asset would have to be worth a significant amount for the local authority to pursue this action. Giving away a £300,000 property, for example, would significantly affect the individual's total capital whereas smaller 'gifts' - such as giving a £300 gift to a granddaughter - are unlikely to prompt further investigation.

9. I will have to sell my home to pay for the care that I need

NOT NECESSARILY - The rules concerning property and care are lengthy but in the main, the following rules apply:

  • If you or a dependent ( spouse, relative over 60, child under 18) is still living in the property then its value is disregarded from the means test. This means that unless you have other assets / income that exceed £23,250 then it is unlikely that you will be required to pay for your care in full.
  • If you receive care in your own home, the property is disregarded from the means test, and unless you have other assets / income that exceed £23,250 then it is unlikely that you will be required to pay for your care in full.
  • If you move into a residential care home and your property is empty, you still don't necessarily need to sell it, you could rent it out or subscribe to the government's 'Deferred Payment Scheme' which entitles you to a loan to pay for the care you need, and repayment of that loan is only required when you sell your property or die (interest is applied to the loan).
  • The 12 week property disregard: the local authority will disregard the value of property and treat the individual as if they were state funded for twelve weeks or until the property sells, if sooner.

10. If I lose capacity, my spouse can automatically make decisions on my behalf

FALSE - If you haven't appointed an official legal Power of Attorney then it is untrue that your spouse or loved one can make important financial or health decisions on your behalf. There are some important rules to be aware of regarding the loss of capacity:

  • Your spouse has some rights over property you own together, like joint bank accounts, but they are restricted from doing certain things with that property.
  • Generally both spouses must consent in writing in order to sell jointly-owned property, so if you lose capacity and haven't appointed rights to someone else to make these important decisions on your behalf, then things can become lengthy and expensive.
  • You need to legally appoint an attorney/attorneys to fulfil an important role in making decisions on your behalf including your Finance & Property, and Health & Welfare decisions. Without the appointment of either/both of these, there is very little your loved ones will have control of.

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My Care Consultant provides information and guidance to people needing care and their families on care and paying for care. If you are in this situation, you can either call 0203 290 3110, or email ask@mycareconsultant.co.uk to receive a free, no obligation 15- minute chat about your concerns

*My Care Consultant offers a nationwide service operating across England, Scotland, N.Ireland, and Wales, however, the care system operates differently in each of these areas.  The information in this document applies to England only - if you require information relating to any of the other areas listed, please contact our helpdesk.  My Care Consultant has taken all reasonable care and skill in compiling the information contained in this document. However, no responsibility can be accepted for individual interpretations and/or decisions made or loss or damage occasioned by any person acting or refraining from acting upon the information contained in this document. This notice is governed by and construed in accordance with English law. If any part of this notice and disclaimer is deemed unlawful, void or for any reason unenforceable then that part will be deemed severable and will not affect the validity and enforceability of the remaining parts.