This week is Carers Week in the UK, a campaign aiming to raise awareness of the challenges carers face as well as recognise the contribution they make to families nationwide.
10.6 million of us are expected to become carers in the next five years and one in ten of us are already looking after a loved one. Most commonly an illness or accident forces a crisis and we suddenly have to step in to look after a loved one but with little or no idea if we are entitled to any help. We’ve asked the experts to demystify what the Care Act means for you…
What the Care Act says:
You have a right to ask your local council for the “eligible” needs [see below] of the person you care for to be assessed – as well as your own needs. The big change is that assessments are now the same across all councils in England*, ending the postcode lottery. Needs have to be significant but you can make top-up payments to pay for what is not covered.
The money you need to spend on care can be paid to the person you care for or to you directly (something that was not always offered before) so that you can manage your own care budget and hire care assistants, or employ an agency to do this.
Those needing care can now have more savings and capital and still get help to pay for this qualifying: if they are in residential care and have capital including their home of under £118,000, or; if they receive community care at home and have capital excluding their home of less than £27,000. In both cases, if savings are more than £17,000 a contribution may have to be made. A home may not be taken into account if a dependant or spouse lives in it. See bbc.co.uk’s care calculator to find out more about caps and costs.
Those having to sell a house to pay for care, have the right to ask that the sale is deferred selling until the person who needs care has passed away though interest will be charged.
From April 2016 there will be a cap of £72,000 on how much those over 65 pay towards their own care in their lifetime – once they reach this level they will qualify for support from the council. But only “eligible” care needs are covered, so you may still have to pay for “board and lodging” of around £12,000 a year. Any costs incurred before 1 April 2016 do not count towards the cap. TIP: Even if you do not get help because your savings are over the threshold, ask for an assessment so “eligible” care costs count towards the £72,000 cap.
*Note: These rules apply to England. New laws similar to the Care Act have been introduced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Check with your local authority website, to find out what help you are eligible for.
What are eligible needs?
A physical or mental impairment or illness that affects your ability to achieve two or more specified outcomes – such as managing toilet needs or maintaining nutrition – where your wellbeing is significantly affected because you cannot achieve these outcomes.
What is continuous health care?
It is free or “fully funded” NHS care outside of hospital for those with significant healthcare needs with assessments by your Clinical Commissioning Group (ask your GP) for those with a primary health need. If you have care needs too, the NHS may pay split the cost with the local authority. See nhs.uk.
How to get help
1. Ask your local council for an assessment of “eligible” care needs. You will then find out how much financial help (if any) you can get.
2. Find out about your rights and your right to challenge assessments at independentage.org
3. Then find out what other support you and your relative could get. More than 4 in 10 carers miss out on benefits and not all benefits are means tested. Visit carersuk.org for advice.