When you or someone you care about starts to have difficulty managing daily tasks at home and needs extra support and care, it can feel daunting and you might not know what help is available or how to arrange it.
The care and support system is complex and can be confusing, with many organisations involved in assessment, arrangement and provision of care.
The rules on how you pay for care and support can also be difficult to understand and it’s important to know what you are entitled to.
However, there is help and advice available and, with a bit of planning, it is possible to find good care which helps your needs.
What social care services are available?
The type of services available to help with care and support needs can include:
- help at home with shopping, laundry and cleaning
- intensive home care such as washing, dressing and preparing a meal
- 24-hour care in a care home or a housing with care scheme (also known as sheltered accommodation).
If you do qualify for local authority support, instead of receiving directly-funded and arranged services, you can ask for cash payments so that you can arrange your own care.
You may also be entitled to the provision of equipment and adaptations to help make your home more suitable to meet your needs.
Where do I start?
Your first port of call should be your Local Authority (via Gov UK) – contact its social services department or contact centre.
Staff will be able to let you know about the local rules which operate in your area (every Local Authority can decide what level of eligibility for care they will provide as well as its charging policy).
Local authorities will also provide an up-to-date list of local providers and can signpost to services. Be prepared to answer questions about your care and support needs, as well as your finances.
Assessment of needs
You should also be offered an assessment of your needs. This means that a social worker (or sometimes an occupational therapist or nurse) will ask you questions about what you find difficult on a daily basis.
This assessment will be used to work out what your levels of need are and what support can be provided.
A needs assessment must always lead to the production of an agreed care and support plan. You should be provided with a copy of this plan.
Qualifying care needs
Most Local Authorities provide care for people who are categorised as having ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’ levels of need.
These are the top two categories in the banding system (called Fair Access to Care Services) that is used by Local Authorities.
The bottom two categories are ‘moderate’ and ‘low’. Generally councils won’t provide services for people whose needs fall into these lower categories. If you’re in this position, you can still find services locally, but you’ll need to pay for these from your income or using savings.
If you have eligible needs the Local Authority has a legal duty to meet them. To meet your needs the council may allocate a personal budget for your care.
This means that you can choose to have services arranged on your behalf or a cash payment paid to you to arrange your own care. This is called a Direct Payment.
As part of your assessment you should receive appropriate advice about how your needs should be met.
The new personal budget system is intended to allow service users greater choice and control over how their needs are met and funding arrangements.
Finances and how it affects charges for support
Care arranged by a Local Authority is not usually free. Your Local Authority will therefore ask about your finances and income.
There are national rules for charging care home fees which means you will pay the full cost of care if you have more than £23,250 in savings (the limits vary slightly in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
If you own your own home and no one else lives in it when you move into a care home, the council is able to take into account the value of the property and use it to pay for care home fees.
In charging for home care, most Local Authorities will use the £23,250 savings limit, but it can vary. However, the value of your property will not be taken into account.
Charges for care are complex, and you should seek more detailed advice from the Age UK advice line on 0800 169 6565.
It’s also very important to ensure that you get all of your benefits and entitlements. For example, there is a non means-tested benefit called Attendance Allowance which provides a weekly income to help meet additional costs which arise from a disability or difficulty with everyday activities.