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What’s Changed in Social Care?

On Wednesday 1 December 2021, the Government published its white paper on social care: People at the Heart of Care.

The publication of the white paper followed the Prime Minister’s previous announcement that a new social care cap would be implemented from 2023 and no one in England would pay more than £86,000 in care fees during their lifetime.

So were the Government’s long-awaited plans for a much-needed overhaul of social care worth the wait? In a word, no.

The white paper on social care in England and the new cap on care fees brings more confusion to an already confusing system. It’s unlikely to save many people any money and does nothing to alleviate the immediate crisis facing social care.

There may be a positive difference for a very limited number of people but certainly not poorer pensioners.

It’s clear the safety net for individuals has some significant holes in it. None of us can rely on it and each of us should make both a health and a wealth plan. It’s time we stopped thinking of planning for the future as something we do in later life.

Day in day out, the Private Client team at Actons support older and vulnerable people facing issues like care home fee rises, poor quality of care, the desire to stay in their own home, and lack of access to funding for support for conditions like dementia. The earlier each of us begins, the more options we allow ourselves when we eventually do need support.

When thinking about protecting your home when it comes to paying for the cost of care, there are a few things to consider:

  • If you need to move into a care home, you’ll usually have a financial assessment to work out how much you’ll need to pay yourself. If you own your house and your spouse, partner or civil partner is still living there then a ‘property disregard’ could apply which means your home won’t be used to fund care costs.
  • The local authority will take income, including pensions, into account when they decide how much you will pay towards their own care. This may reduce the household income available to your spouse/partner who continues to live in the property.
  • In most cases, couples tend to own a property as joint tenants so that when one partner dies the property automatically passes to the survivor. One of the primary reasons people change this is to ensure their 50% share of the property passes to their children, rather than it automatically passing to a surviving spouse/partner (and consequently the whole value of the property being taken into account for the costs of care of the surviving partner/spouse). You can sever the joint tenancy over your property by written notice and then updating the ownership position with the Land Registry. You should then make a Will to ensure that your share of the property passes in accordance with your wishes. However, as an alternative, you may consider your home as an investment to fund your care. This would give you a greater ability to choose where you would like to be cared for (close to loved ones and relatives perhaps) and how (any preferences you may have that would incur a greater care cost).

Each individual’s circumstances are very different, so we always recommend speaking to a specialist solicitor.

Heather Parker, Director and Head of Private Client at Actons in Nottingham, is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, the membership organisation for specialist solicitors who support older and vulnerable people.

For more information or advice on planning for the future, or to discuss any other personal legal issue, please contact Heather Parker or any member of our specialist private client team on 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email.

Posted on December 3, 2021

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