Navigating the care system


Navigating the care system

As life expectancy increases, so does the impact on ourselves and our loved ones, friends and family.

Navigating your way through the care system can be difficult at the best of times, but when you or your loved one needs care quickly it is imperative that you know where to turn and what to do, without delay. Birkett Long’s specialised teams provide practical advice to guide you or your family through the maze of procedures, rules and finances. We help you focus on what is most important whilst ensuring that provisions are in place, needs are met and your wishes are followed.

The Care Act has changed the way the social care system works; from April 2015 the person needing care has the right to a free needs assessment from the local authority. The local authority must advise on how to pay for your own care and help you find support, such as help with housework. You may not have to sell your home during your lifetime to fund your care.

Funding care

Receiving care at home

For personal care at home, you may have to pay the full cost if you have assets higher than the capital limit (ignoring the value of your home), currently £23,250 in England. Those with assets under £23,250 may receive a contribution from the local authority, but they can still be asked to pay a substantial amount.

Care in a residential or nursing home

If you move into a care home, full care fees will be payable if your capital and savings (including the value of your home, unless it is lived in by a qualifying relative) are greater than £23,250. Assets between £14,250 and £23,250 are also assessed, as is income, so it is important to get advice to ensure only eligible assets are taken into account.

Direct payments and personal health budgets

Direct payments are not intended to be used to employ family living with you, but you can employ a relative who does not live with you.

Receiving benefits

A benefit check will establish whether you or your relative is getting their full benefit entitlement, as this will assist in funding care.

NHS funding

In certain circumstances, you or your relative may be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding which, unlike funding from the local authority, is not means tested and is assessed purely on your health needs. This will mean the cost of the care is free regardless of your assets or income.

To be eligible for NHS funding, your needs must be considered as primarily health care needs, rather than social needs, for example, a disability or a complex medical problem such as diabetes as mentioned in Tom’s story. The assessment procedure and requirements for eligibility are complex and lengthy, and eligibility is judged on a case by case basis. At Birkett Long we have a team that specialises in NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding advice, which has helped people reclaim care fees they have previously paid, as well as ensuring current fees are not paid when they should not be.

If you live in a care home registered to provide nursing care and receive care from a registered nurse, it may be that even if you are not entitled to free care, you are eligible for funded nursing care. This is a contribution of around £158.16 per week, which is paid to the care home to cover their registered nursing costs, and in turn may reduce fees payable by you.

Assessing need

Step 1 - the assessment

The needs assessment is provided by your local authority. They may recommend that the person requiring care needs services such as:

• Practical support at home (with medicine, shopping, laundry, etc)

• Care at home: help with personal care

• Disability equipment or home adaptations (stair lifts, mobility aids)

• Sheltered or extra-sheltered housing information and advice on community support

• Care in a residential or nursing home - temporarily or permanently

The assessment is usually carried out in your relative’s home and you, or another relative or friend, can be present. If your relative meets the criteria the local authority has a duty to provide or arrange services. Carers also have a legal right to a care assessment from the local authority. You can get support services if you qualify for them.

Step 2 - organising care

If the local authority agrees that care is needed, they must provide a written care plan detailing the type of care. If you or your relative wants to organise their own care, you can do this by getting a personal budget or ‘direct payment’ from the local authority.

If you wish to discuss any of the above topics further, please contact me on 01206 217609 or

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.