When it comes to funding the social care of our elderly, the safety net has worn dangerously thin. By safety net, I mean the system whereby Social Services pay for your care if you have spent all your money down to £23,250 or have less than that in the first place.
When I first started advising families about their options for funding long-term care, some 17 years ago, the safety net was pretty robust. Generally speaking, if you needed long-term care, but had no assets to speak of, you had a number of decent Care Homes to choose from, all of which would be paid for in full by the Council, albeit your income had to be contributed towards this. Equally, if you had moved into a Care Home on a self-funded basis and your capital subsequently ran out, there was little issue in the Council picking up the tab. That was when the weekly fee charged by a Care Home to the Council and to a self-funding resident was broadly the same.
Fast forward to the present and things look very different. Just today I read an article about a couple, married for 67 years, who face ‘being torn apart’ by Solihull Council in a row over the cost of their care. They had sold their property and have been paying for their own care but as they approach their respective capital thresholds, the Council is saying they won’t pay anything for the husband’s care. They argue that he can move out and live alone in a flat with the help of carers and they expect the Care Home to take a drop in fee income of about 50% for the wife, as that’s all they are prepared to pay.
The crisis point that our social care system finds itself in has been a long time in the making and should not come as a surprise to anyone. Year on year Councils have not increased the fees they pay by a realistic amount which in turn forces the Care Providers to charge higher fees to their self-funders creating a cross-subsidy model that no-one thinks is fair.
With an ageing population and an ever growing pressure on Care Providers to achieve good or outstanding CQC ratings, to have high staff to resident ratios, provide great food, and the list goes on, is it any wonder that we are starting to see clear polarisation in the market? Care Providers are building amazing new facilities – I’m reserving a place at one I visited recently with a spa, cinema room, pub and a putting green – but places will only be offered to self-funders. Many ask for proof of funds for at least 3 or 4 years and make it clear they will seek third party top-ups thereafter.
I know that no-one wants to see their hard earned cash spent on a service they think should be free but the narrative that we should gift away our assets or ‘spend it all before we get there’ is one that now makes me shudder when I hear it. It will mean complete loss of control and of choice at a time when we are at our most vulnerable. Of course it may never happen to us, but, statistically the odds are quite high.
The way I see the social care landscape moving, choice and control will only be possible if we make financial provision for ourselves. That means your clients making provision for themselves. This may be by planning to use some of the value of their properties or earmarking savings or keeping an eye out for product providers bringing new solutions into the market!
Nicky Cave, SOLLA Accredited Care Funding Adviser and Managing Director of Eldercare Solutions Ltd.