Who has to pay care home fees?

Who has to pay care home fees?

Posted by Debbie Harris

Who needs to pay for care home fees?

At Autumna we specialise in finding care home, home care and live in care providers for people who have to pay for their own elderly care. That doesn’t mean to say we can’t help people whose later life social care is paid for by the local authority, but people who can afford to pay their own way have a much greater choice over what happens to them as they grow older and often those choices are not particularly well signposted.

So in this blog we thought we’d highlight some facts and figures to help you work out whether you - or if you are looking to find care for an elderly parent or relative, they - will be paying for later life care or not and then how to go about choosing what and where that care might be.

In the social care sector, people who pay for their own care are referred to as ‘private payers’ or ‘self-funders’ and providers who operate in the elderly care market are very keen to attract them as they, in effect subsidise the fees that local authorities are prepared to pay to place the less wealthy people who cannot pay for their own later life care.    

What is a ‘self-funder’ or ‘private payer?’ Who qualifies?

Although the phrase may have a whiff of the rich and famous, the elite of society about it, when applied to the elder care sector-  care homes, home care and live in care - the term ‘self-funder’ or ‘private payer’ actually refers to a far wider audience.

Generally speaking, anyone with assets exceeding £23,250 including their own home, if they are the only one living in it, is liable to pay for their own elderly care.

In effect then, anyone who owns their own home, and has no spouse living with them, is regarded as a self-funder and will get very limited help from their local authority when it comes to their later life care choices.  

As detailed later in this blog, financing your own elderly care, especially if you have limited funds, can become a complex juggling act. For independent financial help and guidance with these decisions, Autumna have partnered with Eldercare Solutions who are SOLLA (Society of Later Life Advisers) accredited. Eldercare Solutions will be able to talk you through exactly what your money will buy you, and the different options to help you make it last.

You can call them free on 0800 082 1155 or explore their website here. Alternatively you may find their Autumna financial advice page helpful.

What about those who can’t fund their own later life care?

Care costs may be met by the Local Authority or Continuing Healthcare. In these circumstances, choices may be restricted as any local authority will have a budget limit.

It can be worth exploring whether it’s possible to have a third party – usually a family member - ‘top-up’ the fees the local authority are prepared to pay for your social care to expand the choices available to you. (Continuing Healthcare payments are made by the NHS and these cannot be ‘topped up’ – in fact it is illegal to attempt to do so).

Fees paid for by the local authority though can be ‘topped up’ but it must be stressed that you cannot pay for top-up fees yourself. They have to be paid by a third party – a relative, a friend or other willing donor.

And be in no doubt, substantial and detailed checks are made to ensure that any assets you may have had were not channelled to the third party at an earlier date with this in mind! This is known as Deprivation of Assets.

More detail about what counts as Deprivation of Assets with regard to funding your own elderly care can be found on this helpful AgeUK page

 Will a care home treat a self-funding resident differently?

It’s natural to suspect that care homes might differentiate between self-funding and local authority residents. Most care homes have a mix of both types of resident, and in Autumna’s experience – other than perhaps the size of the room in an older care home – there is no distinction made between the quality of the care or any services that either group of people may experience. Very often the staff in a care home will not know which of their residents is self-funding and which is not.

People who work in social care are just that – caring people. It doesn’t matter what level of finances an elderly person has or doesn’t have; they are committed to delivering care to everyone who needs it.

Are self-funders supporting others?

It is generally acknowledged that self-funding residents in effect subside those who are local authority funded. Typically, a care home will have a number of beds that need to be filled and so will take a commercial view on whether to accept the local authority prescribed rate for a bed, or leave it vacant in the hope that it will be filled by a self-funding client.

To give effective elderly care, care providers obviously cannot run their businesses at a loss.  

The average difference in price that is paid by a self-funding resident is 41%.

On the face of it, this may not seem fair, but in truth that is how society generally works.

Ideally, local authorities would have much bigger budgets to spend on social care for the elderly. Perhaps in the future a system will be introduced where we will all be ‘forced’ to save for our later life care throughout our younger years.

Until that happens, then the current system is probably the best we can hope for. And if you are a self-funder and subsidising those people funded by the local authority, at least you can exercise some choice in where you go and who cares for you.

And that’s where the Autumna register of care home, home care and live in care providers comes into its own. Care provider profiles on Autumna are easy-to-navigate and easily comparable between each other. They are also designed to allow care providers to show off their individual personality and to highlight what is unique about them – what they do better than anyone else.

Autumna is designed to help you make the right later life care decisions by providing the information you really need to know.


A few more facts

  • There are c. 540,000 care home beds in the UK.
  • Around 95% of beds are provided by the private sector
  • 53% of care home residents are self-funders, 37% are LA-funded of which 25% pay top-ups
  • 10% are paid for by the NHS – Continuing Health Care

For further information on self-funded care, go to NHS UK or call the Autumna advice line 01892 33 53 30

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