What is capital?

Capital can be your savings, any investments you have, land or property. What counts as capital depends on the kind of care you need. For example, the value of your home is not included when calculating if you need to pay for care in your own home.

How to work out if you're self-funding

It’s a good idea to involve the council, even if you think you’ll have to pay for your own care. If you appear to need care or support, you're entitled to a free care needs assessment from them, which looks at what your care needs are and whether you’re eligible for care and support.

If you're viewed as having "eligible needs", the council will then assess your finances to see how much they would pay towards your care. They’ll look at your income (such as pensions or benefits) and capital (such as savings or property), but how your finances are treated depends on the kind of care you need. For example, the value of your home isn’t included if you’re getting care at home. There are also certain situations where your home won't be included if you are receiving care in a care home.

As a general guide, if your capital is over £23,250 or your weekly income is higher than the cost of your care, you’ll usually have to self-fund. However, there are exceptions to this –  see Paying for care services at home and Paying for care in a care home for more information.

What to ask the council

When you're funding your own care, knowing what your needs are might help you to decide what type of support could work best for you. It’s useful to ask the council how much they’d normally pay for the amount and type of care you need. This can be helpful to know, for example, if you’re self-funding your care home fees initially but are likely to become eligible for council funding in the near future and don't want to be forced to move because your care home charges more than the council is willing to pay.

Getting a care needs assessment might also mean you’re able to find out about other options available. This could include the 12 week property disregard, deferred payment agreements or free adaptations (if they cost up to £1000 each) or free equipment to help you at home.

The council must make sure that you know how to get financial information and advice to help you plan and pay for your care if you need this. They must also help you find out what local care services are available and how to access them. If you’re paying for your own care at home, you have a right to ask the council to arrange this for you if you want them to. They may charge you a fee for doing this.

Getting financial advice

It can be helpful to get independent financial advice about how to pay for your care. Make sure you choose an adviser who has a specialist qualification in long-term care – a CF8 or CeLTCI qualification. There are various places you can search for an adviser, including the Society of Later Life Advisers and Unbiased. Advisers’ fees vary considerably, so ask up front how much it will cost.

Financial products

Financial advisers can help you find financial products and services which might be suitable for you – there are a lot of these around and the quality varies considerably, so it’s worth getting advice. A few examples of financial products are:

  • immediate need care fee payment plans – these cover your care costs for life after you’ve paid a large upfront fee
  • deferred care fee payment plans – these work in a similar way to immediate plans, but they pay out from an agreed date in the future, rather than immediately. The longer the deferred period, the lower the cost of the plan
  • equity release plans – these allow you to release money from your home without selling it, but there are usually better options available.

If your finances change

If your income drops or your capital falls below £23,250, you might be able to get financial help from the council. Contact your local council around three months before you think this will happen. You won't be reimbursed if you contact them after your capital drops below £23,250.

To be able to contribute towards your care fees, the council will need to complete a care needs assessment. This looks at your needs and whether any qualify for support. If you do qualify, they’ll then begin a planning your care with you and assess your finances.

If you're able to get some council support and need residential care, but you choose a more expensive care home than they’ll pay for, a friend of family member may be asked to pay a third party top-up. If you’re moving to a care home, when your capital falls below £23,250, not including the value of your home, you may be able to make a deferred payment agreement with the council. Read Selling your home to pay for residential care for more details.

Next steps

Read our guide Paying for your care for more information.

Look for an independent financial adviser at the Society of Later Life Advisers or Unbiased.

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