We often get asked about care fees, the principle of deprivation of assets and generally how a local authority manages social care. The purpose of this article is to briefly explain these concepts and help you, the reader, understand their significance. It must be stated, however, that each case turns on its own facts and specific advice is always required.
The basics: who pays
The general public are becoming increasingly concerned about how they will pay for their care as fees continue to rise well above inflation. With the social care budget becoming more stretched, local authorities are well aware of this concern, and are becoming increasingly vigilant to those who are intentionally trying to avoid the fees.
In terms of who is liable to pay, simply speaking, if an individual has capital over £23,250 they will have to pay for their own care, and if they are below this but above £14,250, they must pay a contribution to their care. Below £14,250, the local authority will pay.
The local authority
Each local authority has a duty to assess the care needs of those within its area. This duty arises no matter the size of the individual’s assets. Part of this duty is to assess whether the individual is able to pay for their own care. If the local authority considers that the individual is near, but above, the upper threshold for capital (i.e. £23,250), they will plan to assess the individual again in the near future and will keep an eye on their financial situation. This is not the case if the individual has far more capital than the threshold. However, if that individual falls below the threshold, the local authority is likely to look at how the funds were used up.
Deferred payment agreements
Local authorities sometimes offer deferred payment agreements to individuals, which means that they will pay for their care, even if the individual has capital above £23,250. These payments are contingent upon various requirements. For example, a local authority may cover care fees for an individual until a time when the person can sell an asset to refund them. The asset is usually a property. The local authority is likely to only enter this agreement if it can secure the repayment soon, and the security is fixed against a valuable capital asset.
Deprivation of assets
When someone is assessed for care, the local authority has the power to look back at financial transactions (and there is no time limit on doing this) to see whether they consider there to have been any deliberate deprivation. Examples of deliberate deprivation include but are not limited to: putting a property in a child’s name, selling a property at an undervalue, erratic spending patterns or making cash gifts.
In fact, the local authority is able, more or less, to look into any sort of financial transaction. In one case, although the local authority were eventually unsuccessful in their claim, they had claimed that gifts of £250 to family members were an attempt to deliberately deprive the individual of their assets. This shows the length that some local authorities will go to.
What can you do?
It may be a cliché, but every case differs. The facts of each case make the advice required unique. If you need any advice on how to manage your estate, or perhaps you have a partner who is in care, or maybe you are in a dispute with the local authority, we would be happy to help.