Charities win test case on care for the elderly

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The Independent Online
Elderly people with less than pounds 10,000 in savings cannot be forced to pay for their care, no matter how short of resources the local authority is, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

The decision was seen as a major victory for the charities Help the Aged and Age Concern and has implications for the 170,000 elderly in council- run homes throughout the UK.

The charities had brought a test case in the Court of Appeal after a local council made an 87-year-old pensioner, Charlotte Blanchard, pay for her own nursing home care until her savings dropped below pounds 1,500 - the cost of a funeral.

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, and two other appeal judges overturned a High Court decision in favour of Sefton council which allowed the authority to avoid paying for care for the elderly because of its own limited resources.

In the November 1995 Budget, the Government announc-ed that when individuals' capital fell below pounds 10,000, local authorities were legally obliged to pay for a person's care. When capital was between pounds 10,000 and pounds 16,000, the authority paid part of the care, and when it was more than pounds 16,000 the individual had to meet all the costs. Sefton argued that it was entitled to take into account a person's capital because of its own limited resources even though her savings were below the levels prescribed.

Lord Woolf said had Mrs Blanchard had no capital, Sef-ton would have looked after her under its statutory duties. "Their refusal to do so was not dependent upon her condition but her capital resources," he said.

"This is demonstrated by the fact that once her capital resources were reduced below pounds 1,500 they provided the assistance she was seeking."