Stowe Family Law on the future of care

Family Law|January 26th 2015

There are now 11.2 million people in the UK over the age of 65 and this will rise quickly as more and more of us survive beyond the age of 85. The fact that most us now live longer on average is good news of course, but is adequate funding and care support available for all those older people to be?

Most people don’t relish the idea of institutionalised care and the inevitable forced sale of the family home to fund it.

One option is to provide care at home with charges, varying from £13 to £20 per hour.

Another option is residential accommodation. Traditionally, this would be ‘assisted living accommodation’, with a 24 hour care team on site, or full residence in a care or nursing home. The most expensive option is a nursing home of course, when there is a need for 24 hour care – there can be an average weekly cost of over £700 per week for such accomodation. The cost of a care home is generally over £500 per week but can reach £800 per week, while ‘assisted living’ accommodation can result in a service charge of anything up to £150 per week (with the option to buy in more support if required).

There is also the recent growth of so-called ‘retirement villages’, incorporating a mix of retirement housing/assisted living and care/nursing homes.

A new Care Act, due to come into force in April, introduces significant changes, both to social care and the assessment of an individual’s particular needs. It

will make changes to the eligibility criteria which determine what help is required for an individual from a local authority.

Under the new legislation the local authority must put a person’s wellbeing at the heart of decision-making on care, not simply fit people into an existing system. Additionally, local authorities will no longer decide for themselves the level of help they provide. The local authority will have a duty to assess the needs of a person under section 9 of the Care Act and this won’t always require a formal diagnosis of a condition. It will be for that individual to decide whether they want their needs met by the local authority.

The thorny issue of who pays remains complex. The current means-tested threshold is £23,250. This will increase so people with around £118,000 worth of assets (savings or property), or less, will start to receive financial support if they need to go to a care home. The amount the government pays will depend on a person’s assets. There will also be a cap of £72,000 on eligible care costs. This has been introduced in response to criticism of the situation faced by many of those in long term care. The cap of £72,000 is referred to as a ‘lifetime contribution cap’ but it does not cover all care costs, only eligible costs, and therefore it will exclude any costs needed to meet moderate or low needs. We’ll be monitoring what impact the cap really has when it comes in from April 2016.

The demand for care in later life will only increase and it is vital that individuals have a say in the actual care they receive. If they are not well enough to be involved in the decision-making process, it will be necessary to appoint a representative to speak for them. This could be through a lifelong document called a lasting power of attorney. Their appointed representative will be able to deal with financial decisions and also handle health and welfare decisions. Such arrangements allow proper planning and and can be a great source of comfort – but it is very important that you take proper legal advice before making any such commitments.

Read the Care Act here.

Photo by hapal via Flickr

Author: Jane Gray

Jane is a solicitor in Stowe Family Law’s Hale office in Cheshire. She has 15 years of experience in wills, tax trusts and probate law and is a fully qualified member of the Society of Trusts and Estate practitioners (STEP).

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