What is social care and will I be charged?
A social care service is a service you get to meet your social care needs in the community. These services help you improve your wellbeing and help you live independently.
A social care service is a service you get to meet your social care needs in the community. These services help you improve your well-being and help you live independently. They may include:
- Help at home
- Getting meals
- Activities such as going on trips
- Help with education
- Going to a day centre
This does not include supported or residential accommodation. Charging for residential care services is different to these kinds of community services.
What services can the local authority charge me for?
The local authority can charge you for most social care services, except:
- Advice about services,
- A social care assessment,
- Services you get under section 117 of the Mental Health Act,
- The cost of community equipment, such as cushions and tools to help you pick things up or dress yourself,
- Changes to your home that cost less than £1000, such as installing rails or widening doorways, or
- Intermediate care, including re-ablement, for up to 6 weeks with the local authority providing discretionary help after 6 weeks. You may get help from the Disability Facilities Grant for costs over £1000.
Intermediate care and re-ablement are services the local authority or NHS gives people when they have been in hospital. They are to help people to live more independently in their own homes. The local authority and NHS will arrange this care after an injury or long-term health condition.
The local authority can charge you for meals at home or ‘in day’ care, domestic help, personal home care, day services, and other types of help from social services.
How much can the local authority charge me?
There is no standard charge for social care services in England. Local authorities have their own way of doing financial assessments. They have to make sure the way they do the financial assessment is:
- Done in a reasonable time, and
- Enough to pay for your needs.
They should not charge anyone more than they can afford to pay. The local authority needs to make sure that everyone has a minimum amount you need to live on. The minimum amount should be the standard rate of Income Support or Guarantee Pension Credit plus a minimum buffer of 25%. In 2019-2020, the standard rate of income support is £91.40 if you are 25 and over or £72.40 if you are under 25.
What is a financial assessment?
If a local authority decides to charge you for social care, following an assessment, they must carry out a financial assessment. This will work out how much you may have to pay towards the cost of your care. They will assess you as an individual and will not take your partner’s income into account. You will need to give the local authority information about your income and capital.
The local authority should account for any extra costs you have because of your disability. This is known as disability-related expenditure (DRE). The local authority should ignore any income you use to meet these costs. This could include:
- Transport costs to attend a day centre (when it is more than the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment/Disability Living Allowance)
- Day or night care which is not being arranged by the local authority
- Personal assistance costs
- Extra heating costs, or
- Extra costs for equipment, clothing, or bedding
How are my income and savings treated?
The local authority will look at your income to decide if you have to pay.
If you are paid by an employer or are self-employed, the local authority will not include this income.
Local authorities will take into account all the benefits you receive but will disregard the benefits listed below.
- Direct Payments
- Guaranteed Income Payments for veterans from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
- The mobility component of Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may have reduced your benefit payments because of sanctions or because you have been overpaid. But the local authority will assess you based on how much the benefit should be and not what money you actually get.
There are incomes the local authority will not include; these are listed below:
The local authority should not include your carer’s or relatives’ income. They should never ask them to pay for your services unless they are looking after your money for you.
Notional income is money that you may not be getting but the local authority includes in the financial assessment.
Notional income might be:
- Income you would be entitled to but have to apply for, like a pension
- Income that is due to you but you don’t have yet, or
- Income you got rid of on purpose to reduce how much you have to pay. This is called ‘deprivation of assets’
Examples of deprivation of assets can include:
- Giving money away as a gift
- Going on expensive holidays, or
- Spending a lot of money on your lifestyle like going out a lot more than usual or shopping a lot to spend extra money
Savings and capital
The local authority will also look at any savings and capital you have as well as your income. This does not include the value of the home you live in most of the time.
If your capital and savings are less than £14,250, you should not have to pay anything. However, depending on how much disposable income you have, the local authority may ask you to pay something for your care costs. You should ask your local authority about this, as they will have their own policy.
If your capital and savings are more than £23,250 then you will have to pay all of the cost of your social care.
The local authority will work out how much you have to pay if your savings and capital is between £14,250 and £23,250. How they calculate it is that for every £250 over £14,250 you own, they will consider you to have extra weekly income of £1. This is called ‘tariff income’.
Your savings and capital may be slightly above the £23,250 upper limit. In this case, the local authority needs to consider when your payments will take you below the upper limit when working out your charges.
How will I find out about any charges?
The local authority will tell you your personal budget when they finish your care and support plan. Your personal budget will show if you have to pay anything. You and the local authority will agree these charges at the end of the care and support planning process.
Your personal budget should be enough to meet your needs in the care and support plan. You, your carer, or your advocate can challenge the final amounts at the planning or final stages of your personal budget. If you are not happy about the way the local authority handled your case, you may wish to complain.