One of the areas for discussion by the Commission on Funding for Care and Support, set up on Tuesday, will be the various options including voluntary and compulsory schemes. They have to report in a year and have to take account of the new Coalition Government's spending cut proposals. We welcome a review of care fees as this is one of subjects that most worries and confuses our elderly clients.
Sometimes they pick up headlines from scaremongering stories claiming that ‘the Council' will take away their home if they go into a nursing home. These stories are not true and can push elderly people into giving away the houses that they live in to their children, which can cause terrible problems if the children subsequently get into financial difficulties, divorce, or die before their parent.
Firstly, if a couple own a property and one of them goes into residential or nursing accommodation, the value of the house is completely ignored in the calculation of whether the Local Authority will assist in the payment of fees.
Secondly, if the value of the house is included in the assessment, then the Local Authority will not take the property, merely include its value in their assessment of how much available capital there is for the payment of fees. It still remains in the ownership of and under the control of the person who needs the care. The Local authority offers a number of ways in which the house can be retained through it's direct payment scheme or through deferred payment where nursing home fees are paid by the Local Authority but are repaid on the death of the resident or later sale.
The public need to have a better understanding of the current situation - in some cases, care is completely free irrespective of how much money there is and we have helped clients to ensure that they get this care when appropriate.
For instance, if the client's illness is advanced then they may qualify for ‘continuing care' where the State pays for the care if the needs are so great that the client could have been cared for in hospital. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, and we have had a number of recent incidences of clients who have lost entitlement to free care despite, in our opinion, no change in their condition. In these circumstances, we appeal against the assessment.
Where a client is subject to a section under the Mental Health Act, then there is a duty on the State to pay for their accommodation costs.
We have found that some organisations are selling products which purport to remove assets from assessment for Local Authority funding. These should be treated with extreme caution as they are expensive and there is no guarantee that they will work, despite what the brochure says. In our experience, these are sold without consideration of all the client's circumstances and in a number of cases, completely unnecessarily. It takes time and cost to ‘unpick' them. We would suggest that specialist impartial advice is obtained before committing to any of these types of products.
However, with a larger proportion of the population living to over 80 years of age, the question of who is going to foot the bill for the escalating cost of caring for the elderly has to be faced. If individuals do not want to pay for their own care, which many feel discriminates against those who are careful and save during their working lives, then who is to pay and how? We await the Commission's recommendations with interest.
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