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More detail emerges on government plans to cap the cost of going into a care home

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Today, plans meant to help people better prepare for the cost of their future care needs have been published by the government alongside details of how the new fairer funding system will protect people’s homes and savings.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb announced these after the policy initiative was announced some months ago and following Andrew Dilnot’s report into the issue last year.

The cap on care costs is meant to help people plan around their finances and end the situation where all a persons savings, their assets and their home can – as at present – be taken away from them to cover the almost unlimited costs of funding their own care.

It is important to recognise that these proposals are still in consultation and that they will only at best come into effect in 2016.

It is also important that people see that the “cap” is a maximum that persons will be expected to pay for their care (£72,000 is the figure being quoted)…but – at the same time this figure represents the cost of the care and NOT the accommodation side of the care in a care home.

The Department of Health has announced that - as part of a significant consultation looking at the practical detail of implementing the proposed funding reforms - the current proposals include:

financial advice to help everyone understand their needs and plan for the future

annual ‘care account’ statements to project when someone will reach the cap or qualify for additional financial support

the option of joining a not-for-profit ‘deferred payment’ scheme, where the local council pays people’s residential care fees and the person is able to repay from their estate, allowing them to keep their home during their lifetime

possible new products from the financial services sector who are responding to these reforms by looking at how pensions and expanded life or health insurance could help some people plan

the principles that will inform the level of cap for people aged under state pension age who have eligible needs

A commitment by the Department of Health, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Social Services to work in partnership on a joint programme to ensure successful and sustainable delivery of these reforms

The proposals are based on reforms to how care is paid for in an attempt to give more certainty and peace of mind over the cost of old age or living with a disability.

They are intended to end the unfairness of unlimited care costs and ensure everyone gets the care they need with most support going to those in greatest need.

From 2016, the reforms will deliver a new cap of £72,000 on eligible care costs, additional financial help for people of modest wealth with less than £118,000 in assets including their home and, from 2015, a scheme to prevent anyone having to sell their home in their lifetime.

The consultation confirms details of the plans including:

for people entering a care home, their property will not be included in the assessment of assets if a partner or dependent still lives in the home. In this case if a person has assets of less than £27,000 (excluding their home) they will qualify for financial assistance

many people getting financial support towards the costs of meeting their eligible needs will reach the cap without paying out the whole £72,000 themselves. Because the cap is based on the total cost of meeting someone’s eligible needs, not just their own contribution, an individual’s payments are added to those made by the local authority when measuring progress towards the cap

The government has provided £335m for 2015/16 to cover the costs of implementation of the cap and the requirement to offer deferred payments for residential care. This includes funds that will enable local authorities to begin assessing people’s needs for care and support around six months before introduction of the cap, if they choose to do so.

Norman Lamb said:

“These reforms bring reassurance to millions of people by ending the existing unfair system so no one need face unlimited care costs or the prospect of selling their home in their lifetime.

Now we are unveiling proposals for how the new system will operate and what it can do to help people plan and prepare for future care costs – and over the next three months we’ll be seeking people’s views on making it a reality.

No one wants to face an unknown future. This overhaul of the way care is paid for gives people the certainty and peace of mind we all deserve.”

There are of course still huge problems that the elderly, disabled and their carers/families are currently facing around the issue of care funding - and will still be facing at least until these reforms are implemented (indeed if they are implemented at all and in this way).

Many people in England are put off claiming for care fees which loved ones may have paid in the past, or are still paying, in the belief that recent “deadlines” and time limits will not allow you to claim them back.

Whilst it is true that the English and Welsh government effectively stopped backdated claims on 31st March this year, if someone has severe health problems which require intense or complex nursing care then the NHS is still obliged to pay for that care, even if it is delivered in a nursing home or in the person's own home.

Claims CAN STILL be made for ongoing care and for backdates of up to 6 months in England and Wales.

There are also many other ways in which the cost of care currently being paid for can be offset or reduced. Advice at the right time, individually tailored in the right way is essential.

By Pete Donohue

Stephensons has a long history of expertise in the field of community care law and has experts in adult care provision, child care, and care funding matters.

We have been involved in a number of important cases in this field. Such services are a duty of the Authorities to provide to persons with eligible and assessed needs, such as the disabled, vulnerable children or the elderly.

Legal Aid may be available, or we have a competitive tariff of fixed fee options to assist people in legal matters in this field.

Our community care team is part of a larger Public Law and Civil Liberties Unit.