Did you know that local authorities have a duty to pay for some people’s care? A council may fund someone’s care costs after carrying out a couple of assessments. Firstly, the council will carry out a needs assessment to find out how much care someone needs, then they will carry out a means test to calculate how much money someone should receive based on their financial situation.
In this article, we are going to look at what local authority funding is, who is eligible for this funding, and how you can get money from the council to cover your at-home care costs.
What is local authority funding?
The Care Act 2014 is the piece of legislation that sets out the duties of a local council in relation to care and tells us who is eligible for local authority funding. The Care Act 2014 lets people know their rights so that they know if the council should be paying for their care.
If a person is a resident in the local area (they live at home there), and their health needs and care needs make them eligible for local authority funding, the council may pay for all or some of their care costs. The council may also organise a person’s care if this is what they want.
What does local authority funding pay for?
Local authority funding can be used to fund care home costs or live-in care costs. Sometimes a council will prefer to pay for care home costs, but it is still possible to get them to fund live-in care costs. You should therefore choose the care option that is best for you or your loved one. A council can either provide carers, or give someone their personal budget (the local authority funding money they are entitled to) via direct payment to pay for privately arranged care.
Who is eligible for local authority funding?
To be eligible for local authority care funding, someone has to live in the local area and need help when it comes to daily tasks. Someone could also be eligible for funding if they are a carer and need support (this is determined through a carer’s needs assessment). An individual may be eligible for local authority funding if a care needs assessment decides that:
· They have a physical health need
· They have a mental health need
· They have an illness
· They cannot complete some important everyday tasks
· Their wellbeing is impacted significantly if they do not receive help and support
For example, someone may need help with personal care (e.g., washing and bathroom assistance), be at risk of a fall, or need support with a mental health condition.
How to get local authority funding
In England, the first thing someone needs to do to get local authority funding is to ask social services for a needs assessment (or a carer’s assessment). This is a free assessment, and anyone can ask for it if they think they could be eligible for help from the local authorities.
You can start applying for local authority funding online. You just need to type in your post code to find your local council’s application page is and apply for a care needs assessment on their website. It is also possible for a carer or health professional to refer someone to the local council for a care needs assessment.
· If your situation is urgent, make sure you state this on your application as your assessment could be fast-tracked.
· Once you have applied, make sure to follow up on your request if your local council doesn’t get back to you after a week.
What is a care needs assessment?
A care needs assessment is an assessment carried out by a healthcare professional (a nurse, occupational therapist or social worker). It is the assessment used by the local council to check a person’s care needs, and to find out what care is available to someone. In a care needs assessment, someone will talk to you about daily tasks, what you cope well with, and what you find difficult or need help with. Other topics in a care needs assessment can include:
· Physical health
· Mental health
· Social life
· Wishes and hopes for life
· Religion and culture
It is very important that someone is open and honest during their care needs assessment so they get the care and support they need. You can prepare for a care needs assessment by thinking of some examples of day-to-day tasks you find difficult. This will help you to feel more confident about discussing your need, preferences and situation.
If someone has eligible care needs, the local council will carry out a means test to check a person’s eligibility for funding.
How does a means test work?
A means test is the way a council assesses a person’s financial situation and decides if the local authorities should pay for some or all of their care costs. Usually, if someone has less than £23,250 in savings and assets, they will probably be eligible for local authority funding.
Property and income could also be important factors when it comes to assessing a person’s eligibility for care funding from the local council. It is important that someone makes sure they have applied for all of the benefits they are entitled to, as the person doing the means test will assume that if someone is eligible for a benefit, they are receiving it.
What if you can’t get local authority funding?
Sometimes, the council will decide that someone is not eligible for local authority funding. This is either because a person’s care needs are not deemed eligible for local authority support, or a person’s finances and assets mean that they are not eligible for funding. If this happens, there are a few things you should consider:
· Do you want to appeal the decision made?
· Have you applied for all of the benefits you are entitled to?
· Would you benefit from any home adaptations or equipment that the NHS offer?
· Have you considered NHS Continuing Healthcare funding?
Appeal the council's decision
If you disagree with the outcome of a care needs assessment or a means test, you can appeal the local authority’s decision. You can also complain about how an assessment was carried out if you do not think the assessor was fair.
It is possible to challenge a local authority’s decision if they have refused to pay for your care, or you think you need more support than they have offered. You can appeal a decision by following these steps:
· Get in touch with your local authority to ask for an explanation of the decision.
· Read over this explanation to check that there have not been any misunderstandings.
If you are still unhappy with the decision, ask for help with your complaint from the following services:
· Your local councillor
· A local disability or support group
· Take your complaint to the Ombudsman (Someone who investigates complaints made against organisations).
Look into non-means tested benefits
Some benefits will help you to fund care and they are not all means-tested. This means that a person may be eligible for funding no matter what their financial situation is like.
Consider equipment or home adaptations
If a small piece of equipment or home adaptation costs less than £1000, the NHS may offer it to someone for free. Assistive devices and home adaptations can have a large impact on a person’s quality of life and independence.
NHS CHC funding
If someone needs care after staying in hospital to recover from an illness, operation or accident then they may be entitled to NHS Continuing Healthcare. This is fully funded care that is not means tested, so if someone’s post-hospital care needs are eligible, their financial situation won’t stop them from getting funding for the care that they need.
Support for people looking for local authority funding and advice
If you want to find out more about local authority funding, or want to ask for advice about your situation, the following services can help:
· Age UK offer useful resources about care funding and their helpline is available for support and advice – 0800 169 6565
· Independent Age also offer support and advice about local authority funding – 0800 319 6789
· The Money Advice Service will be able to answer any other questions you have about funding care and local authority funding – 0800 138 7777