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Changes to the way you pay for residential care

Following the introduction of the Care Act in 2015, you may have heard that there are going to be some changes to how you pay for social care in the future.

Given the General Elections of 2015 & 2017, it's no longer certain that those changes will go ahead in their current form.

What changed in April 2015?

In April 2015, The Care Act was introduced which set out various changes:

  1. You have a right to a free needs assessment from your council, even if it thinks your finances are too high or your needs are too low to qualify for help.
  2. All councils must use national eligibility criteria to decide whether someone can get help from them.
  3. If you get social care support, you now have a right to request a personal budget if you’re not offered one. This is a summary of how much the council thinks your care should cost.
  4. If your needs assessment shows you don’t qualify for help from the council, they must advise you how the care system works and how to pay for your own care. So if you just need a hand with housework, for example, the council should assist you in finding this.
  5. You can defer selling your home to pay your care fees until after your death.
  6. If you’re paying for your own care, you can ask the council to arrange your services for you. It can only charge you as much as someone whose care they are funding.
  7. If you’re a carer, you have a legal right to a carer's assessment from the local council. You can also get support services if you qualify for them.
  8. If you find it difficult to communicate or to understand the issues being discussed, the council must provide an advocate to help you when discussing your care. They will represent your interests if you don’t have a friend or relative who can help.
  9. If you’re paying for your own care, you can ask the council to arrange your services for you. It can only charge you as much as someone whose care they are funding.

What might change from April 2020?

  1. There may be a cap on how much you have to spend on your care needs. Anything you or the council spend on your eligible needs will be added up in your care account. Once it reaches this figure, the council will pay for all your eligible needs. This will exclude your daily living costs, which covers things like your food and accommodation in a care home. The proposed figure of £72,000 for the cap is likely to change by 2020 due to inflation.
  2. The council can reassess your care needs, even if you pay for your own care. This is because the council works out how much your care should cost to meet your eligible needs, and adds this up. It needs to check every so often that the amount it thinks you should be spending is still right.
  3. New rules about top-up fees in care homes mean you may be able to pay them yourself. Top-up fees may apply if you move into a care home that costs more than the council can pay.
  4. If you’re not happy about a decision, you have a new right to complain and appeal it, and for this to be independently investigated.

The Government has announced it is to publish a green paper (probably in 2018) that will provide the basis for new legislation on how to plan and pay for social care.

Is there now a limit on how much I have to pay for care?

When the Care Act was introduced in 2015, there was a suggested cap on care costs of £72,000. However, this is now in doubt following the General Elections of 2015 and 2017.

What should I do next?

How do these changes affect me?

Every person’s circumstances are different and how these changes affect you will depend on what kind of care you need, how long you need care, and your individual financial circumstances.

If you’re already paying for care

What you’ve spent already won’t be counted towards the new cap on care costs. It’s only when any new changes come into force that what you spend on care will start to count towards a lifetime cap.

We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 055 6112. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 140 local Age UKs.


Last updated: Jul 17 2018

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