Life savings obliterated by the cost of care

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Both culturally and in practice, the UK care system is split in two by a blurred divide. On one side of the equation: social services and local government, and on the other: the NHS. Each is accountable to the public for care services.

Elderly Care Home NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding

Most of those in care pay a fortune for the privilege. According to Partnership, an individual can expect to pay around £27,144 a year for residential care, rising to over £38,000 if nursing is required. Even the average cost of care at home is £400 to £500 per week. It is plain to see how hundreds of thousands of pounds are paid in fees over the course of a lifetime.

On the NHS side of the care divide, proving a ‘primary health need’ will secure entitlement to NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding and payment by the NHS of the full cost of the individual’s care. Financial background is irrelevant as the eligibility decision is a health one.

Many individuals who are seriously ill allegedly fall foul of the NHS Continuing Healthcare criteria. As at January 2012, around 53,000 people in England were in receipt of NHS Continuing Healthcare. The Daily Express reports a staggering 100,000 people who are believed to meet the eligibility criteria for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding, but who were forced to pay for care home fees.

On the other side of the care divide, individuals are left to the mercy of a financial means test, often resulting in a financial contribution by the local authority or no assistance at all. Whilst the individual has the reassurance that their savings and assets will not be reduced below the sum of £23,000, this offers little consolation. When one considers that the local authority will place a charge on the individual’s own home and force sale to secure satisfaction of the debt, it almost seems a better option not to earn and save.

Financial means testing instigated by local government was also highlighted rather vividly by The Daily Express; “save and your assets will be seized by the state to pay for your care. Buy a house and you will probably have to sell it to raise the money to pay for care.”

It is also true to say that if you do not meet the eligibility criteria for NHS Continuing Healthcare, nor do you meet the financial criteria for local authority assistance, you fall into the black hole in the care divide and run the risk of losing all your hard earned life’s savings or your cherished home, which you may be forced to sell to fund the cost of the care home fees.

If you feel that your family member’s care needs are serious and you suspect that they could qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare, it’s always worth looking into. Clearly, establishing an individual’s eligibility for NHS Continuing Healthcare and securing full funding could protect a lifetime’s worth of savings and hard graft.

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