Will the council force me to sell my home to pay for care?


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The Independent Online

Concerned readers have been in touch about future care costs. They are worried about the financial burden they could put on families

Typical is the question asked by Eric Evans: "My wife and I will soon be looking for a home of some sort for the rest of our days but the definitions of the levels of care are inconsistent and the information one gets from councils and care organisations is very patchy."

He's worried about the council "confiscating my home or taking the proceeds of selling it".

"Does that apply to all sales, even where one goes into a non-council home, or apply only to going into a council-run home?" he asks.

We put Eric's question to Janet Davies of long-term care specialists Symponia.

"The world of care is daunting," she said, "and while the terminology might appear clear to those working in it, to those investigating it for themselves it can be anything but!"

She explained that old-style residential homes – often called rest homes – are now usually referred to as care homes without nursing. Without a "nursing" classification it doesn't need to have qualified nurses.

Meanwhile, nursing homes are now called care homes with nursing. They have to have at least one registered general nurse on duty all the time. Residents of these homes tend to be more dependant.

Then there are EMI Homes, which stands for elderly mentally impaired.

"This rather unflattering name mainly refers to homes that give dementia care, either solely or within dedicated units inside the home," Janet explains.

What about finance fears and losing a family home?

"No-one actually 'confiscates' a property, not even a local authority," is Janet's reassurance. She says that the monetary value is take into account if a person goes into a care home.

If the local authority agrees that residential is the best option then it will see if that person is classed as a self-funder. That means they have assets of more than £23,250 (in England).

Assets include the property so if it totals more than £23,250 the local authority won't pay anything towards care until the level falls below that amount.

The finances can prove to be so complicated that "the best thing to do is to invest in the services of a specialist financial adviser and request a Care Destiny report," advices Janet.

But Alistair Cunningham of Wingate Financial Planning says that's of little use for those with a more urgent need for care. If that's the case, he advises immediate needs annuities which provide a guaranteed level of income, but at the cost of an immediate loss of capital.

"To me the downside of this irrevocable commitment is less relevant than the risk of being kicked out of a care home to a state-funded one. Why would someone not want the best care they can afford?" he said.

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