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A cap on social and residential care charges - but 'does the cap fit?'

View profile for Mike Pemberton
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Over the weekend, news reports have emerged that Jeremy Hunt, the coalition government’s Health Secretary is set to announce details capping the cost that anyone would pay for nursing care in their lifetime.

The cap is rumoured to be £75,000 – significantly higher than the £35,000 figure recommended by Andrew Dilnot in his commissioned report last year.

There is also set to be a disregard of up to £123,000 of capital in assessing an ability to pay for care.

However, the details have not fully emerged, and one aspect which is not really in the “headline” or “landmark” announcement is that the cap only extends to the cost of care…whereas the actual costs of residential or nursing care is not just the care provision itself but the “accommodation and board” costs of living in residential care. This is to cover the cost of things such as food, bills and renting the room. For many this may be as much as £10,000 a year…and the cap does not cover this.

So, if your care costs – say - £25,000 per year or around £500 per week, as much as 40% of this may be for the “accommodation and board” and not the care.

So a person in care for 5 years may well pay the same £75,000 as they would pay now for their care (ie 5 years x £15,000 - and only just hit the cap), but have to pay out £50,000 in accommodation and board at the same time. A total of £125,000 – so the “cap” is not all it seems.

This is important because only about a fifth of all long term residential care patients in the UK currently actually pay more than £75,000 over their stay.

So the cap may only really protect the minority in any event – and that minority will of course be those who have significantly more than this amount of capital.

Equally notable is the fact that the changes,  if implemented, are only planned in 2017, some four years away and – of course – well into the next parliament.

Reform is certainly needed to a system described by many as a “time bomb” as more people grow older and rely on greater support in their care as they live longer. However, many people remain unaware of what funding is available already to help people pay for their care via the NHS or Local Authorities.

A deadline for people to claim back care fees which the NHS should have been paying for expired in September 2012. Much publicity surrounded this deadline.

However, a further deadline set at March 31st this year exists for people to still be able claim back up to two years worth of fees if it can be shown that they met the criteria and their care was predominantly “nursing care”. This makes the care they receive essentially “free”. However, many who should have claimed have not, or they may have tried and have been assessed wrongly. Two years care can be as much as £60,000.

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.

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 whose remit is to fight for the vulnerable, the underdog in their dealings with these large government bodies.