Will social care changes help us in our old age?

Photo of elderly couple walking away from camera by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash

Were the Government’s long-awaited plans for a much-needed overhaul of social care worth the wait?

The White Paper on Social Care in England was published at the start of this month. The Prime Minister had previously announced that a new social care cap would be implemented from 2023 and no one in England would pay more than £86,000 in care fees during their lifetime.

The new cap on care costs will cover fees for personal care, such as help with washing and dressing. It will not cover living costs such as care home fees, food or utility bills.

From October 2023:
• Those with assets of less than £20,000 will not have to pay anything from these towards care fees – although they might have to pay from their income
• Those with more than £100,000 in assets – the value of their home, savings or investments – will not get any financial help from the council
• Those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will qualify for council help, but will have to pay £86,000 out of their own pocket to reach the cap

Solicitor Rebecca Head, of Four Oaks Legal Services, said: “It’s clear the safety net for individuals has some significant holes in it. None of us can rely on it and each of us needs to think ahead and make a plan. We need to stop thinking of planning for the future as something we just do in later life.

“We are regularly speaking to families of older and vulnerable people facing issues such as care home fee rises, poor quality of care, the desire to stay in their own home, and lack of access to funding for support for conditions like dementia. This month’s announcement does little to address these challenges, although there may be a positive difference for a very limited number of people.”

Greater ability to choose

When thinking about protecting your home when it comes to paying for the cost of care, there are a few things to consider:
1. If you need to move into a care home, you’ll usually have a financial assessment to work out how much you’ll need to pay yourself. If you own your house and your spouse, partner or civil partner is still living there, then a ‘property disregard’ could apply, which means your home won’t be used to fund care costs.
2. However, the local authority will take income, including pensions, into account when they decide how much people will pay towards their own care. This may reduce the household income available to the spouse/partner who continues to live in the property.
3. In most cases, couples tend to own a property as joint tenants so that when one partner dies the property automatically passes to the survivor. One of the primary reasons people change this is to ensure their 50% share of the property passes to their children, rather than it automatically passing to a surviving spouse/partner (and consequently the whole value of the property being taken into account for the costs of care of the surviving partner/spouse). You can sever the joint tenancy over your property by written notice and then updating the ownership position with the Land Registry. You should then make a Will to ensure that your share of the property passes in accordance with your wishes. However, as an alternative, you may consider your home as an investment to fund your care. This would give you a greater ability to choose where you would like to be cared for (close to loved ones and relatives perhaps) and how (any preferences you may have that would incur a greater care cost).

Head and shoulders image of Joanna Parking and rebecaa Head standing side by side.
Joanna Parkin and Rebecca Head

Each individual’s circumstances are very different, so we would always recommend speaking to a specialist solicitor. Rebecca and her colleague Joanna Parkin are members of SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly), the membership organisation for specialist solicitors who support older and vulnerable people.