As with many areas of law, those covering the cost of care for the elderly differ depending which side of the border you’re on. In this article, we’ll explain the differences in more detail and take a look at the new laws coming into force in England next year.
At present in England, anyone with assets over £23,250 has to pay the full cost of their own care. For the cost of care in their own home, that figure only takes account of the value of their assets excluding the home. If the adult is moving into a care home, the value of their home may also have to be taken into account.
New legislation on the horizon
New legislation coming into force in England means that, from April 2016, the cost of care will be capped. This means there will be a limit on how much people will pay for the cost of their own care, including care in their own home and in residential or nursing care homes.
The changes mean that the most anyone aged over 65 will have to pay towards the cost of their care will be capped at £72,000. The government have said that the changes will mean people with around £118,000 worth of assets or less will start to receive financial support if they need to go into a care home.
To be eligible for the cap, the adult must first be assessed by their council as having very high needs. Additionally, a rate will be set by the council for the assistance by them towards the cost of care and only that rate will count towards the cap. For residential care, the cost of food and accommodation will not be taken into account for the cap. It is estimated that only 1 in 8 people will reach the cap as a result of these rules.
Deferred payment schemes
Since April 2015, all councils in England have been expected to offer deferred payment schemes for adults who do not wish to sell their home to meet the cost of their care.
This is effectively a loan by the government to meet the cost of care, repayable after the death of the adult – which means the adult doesn’t have to sell their home when they go into care, but is still liable for the cost of care.
How do the cost of care laws differ in Scotland?
These changes do not affect Scotland where there is no cap on the cost that an adult will have to pay for their own care. North of the border the following rules currently apply:
- If you have assets over £26,000 you will pay all of your accommodation and care costs. That may include your own home, depending on whether anyone else lives in the home.
- If you have assets of between £16,000 and £26,000, the Local Authority will contribute some towards the cost of your care and you will have to contribute the balance.
- If you have less than £16,000 assets, the cost of your care will be funded by your local council, however, you will be expected to contribute something from your income.
- “Free personal care” is available for anyone over the age of 65 in Scotland who has been assessed by the local authority as needing it. This covers services such as assistance with personal hygiene, food and diet, mobility etc. If the local authority agrees that you should receive personal care, you will receive a payment of £171 per week towards those services.
- “Free nursing care” for anyone assessed as requiring nursing care services. This is a payment from the local authority of £78 per week towards those costs.
The average weekly cost of care in Scotland is £596 for a residential home and £743 for a residential home with nursing care*. This ranges between around £31,000 and £38,500 per year before any of the above allowances are factored in.
*Source: Laing & Buisson Care of Older People, UK Market Report 2013/14
In April 2015, the care and NHS budgets in Scotland were merged. It is hoped that this will encourage greater integration between the two sectors.
The most glaring difference between the new English laws and those currently in force in Scotland is the fact there is no cap on the cost of personal care in Scotland.
The cost of care in other countries
In Northern Ireland and Wales they have their own laws covering the cost of care for the elderly. We’ve given a short summary of these below:
In Northern Ireland social care is overseen by five health and social care trusts. If you are aged over 75, you’ll get most care in your own home free of charge. If you’re under 75 then you may have to pay, but one of the aforementioned local trusts would determine if any charge was applicable, and if so, at what level.
If you have assets worth over £23,250 (may include property value) and need to be looked after in a care home or nursing home, you’ll be liable to pay in full for your care.
Starting in April 2016, everyone in Wales will have the right to have their care needs assessed.
If you’re living at home and need care, the cost is capped at just £60 per week (since April 2015). If you have assets or money saved away that totals more than £24,000 (not including your home), you will be expected to meet your home care costs up to that limit.
Again, the laws are different when you need to go into a care home or nursing home. If you have assets totalling more than £24,000 (may include your property value) you will have to pay the full cost as you would in Northern Ireland.
How we can help
There are a number of areas we can advise on when it comes to cost of care in Scotland, these include:
- The potential cost of your care
- Planning ahead for potential care costs
- Asset protection including trusts
- Financial and tax advice
As with all legal matters, it’s important you get professional advice based on your individual circumstances before making any decisions. With people living longer lives than ever before, the cost of care is something that’s likely to affect more and more of us in future years. It remains to be seen if Scots Law will change in any way to reflect the impending changes in England.
The laws covering cost of care in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all different. They also differ depending on whether you need care in your own home or need to go into a care/nursing home.
At Gibson Kerr, we will guide you through the various issues associated with the cost of care in Scotland. Get in touch with Lindsay using the details below.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice.