Most people needing support in a care home will be expected to pay something towards the costs of their accommodation and personal care. How much they pay will depend on their financial situation.
Care homes arranged by your local authority
Your local council may be able to help fund your care in a care home. This will depend on whether the council agrees that you need such a high level of care after they've assessed your needs. The amount of funding will also depend on an assessment of your financial circumstances to find out how much, if any, the council should be paying towards the cost of the care.
This financial assessment, or 'means test', is based on nationally set guidelines and looks at how much income and capital (savings, assets and property) you have.
If you have over a certain amount in savings (a figure set by the government annually) you'll probably be required to pay for the full costs of your care for as long as your savings remain above this amount. If you have less than this amount in savings, you may be entitled to financial help.
If you own a property that can be sold, its value may be taken into account when the council works out how much you should pay towards your care home. There are some circumstances, when other people are also living in your home, when the value of the property will be ignored during the financial assessment.
If you own a property, it's always sensible to seek independent financial advice about how best to pay for your long-term care costs.
If you're eligible for nursing home care, then you may be eligible for some of the cost of the care to be paid for by the NHS (see 'Exemptions' below).
Your local council will provide full details of what to expect when you complete the financial assessment. Visit the county council Charging for Care Services pages to find information on Financial Assessments.
Third party top-ups
If the council does agree to pay towards the cost of your care home, then you could also check whether a relative or other person is in a position to pay an additional contribution towards your care home costs. This arrangement, known as a 'third-party top-up', means that you could potentially live in a care home which costs more than your council would normally be able to pay.
However, your relative is under no obligation to do this, and it does not affect whether or not the council will agree to pay towards a care home placement for you.
You should also note that if the top-up is not maintained you may have to move to a care home that is within the council's usual rate.
Making your own arrangements for moving to a care home
Some people prefer to make their own arrangements for moving to a care home, particularly if they already know that their financial circumstances mean that they won't be eligible for any financial support from their local council. The advantage of this is that you have more choice and flexibility, and can decide for yourself which care home you would like to move into.
However, if you make arrangements for your own care, you will usually have to pay the full costs. These costs are likely to be higher than for care arrangements made by the local authority, as the local authority will usually pay lower rates to the care providers.
If you won't be receiving support from your local council towards the costs of your care home then you'll be entitled to continue to claim Attendance Allowance or Disability Allowance, and to use this towards the costs of your care.
Regardless of your financial circumstances, you may not have to pay towards the costs of your care if you're eligible for NHS continuing healthcare, in which case all of the costs will be met by the NHS.
If you require nursing care in a care home then the NHS-funded nursing care component is also funded by the NHS, even if you don't qualify for support with the rest of your nursing care costs from your local council.
You may also not need to pay for your care if you have previously been detained in hospital under Section 117 of the Mental Health Act.
Looking after your finances
Many people who need to move to a care home will find that they're also struggling to safely look after their finances without help from others. If you think you need help to look after money matters then you can find out more about your options in our section Looking after someone's affairs.
Contacting your local council about care home charges
If you want to discuss your current care home charges, or want more information on the financial assessment process, then you can contact Essex County Council as follows:
The Contact Essex team can help you with enquiries. They can be contacted in the following ways:
Telephone: 0345 603 7630
Textphone: 0345 758 5592
The financial assessments team can help you with enquires relating to your assessed charge, completing the financial assessment form, and visits from our financial assessment officers. The team can be contacted in the following ways:
Telephone: 0800 085 8176 or 0333 013 5895
Textphone: 0345 758 5592
Other information and advice
Age UK has fact sheets and information on meeting the costs of a care home, and what to expect when you move there. The financial information in these fact sheets applies regardless of your age.
The Independent Age website has produced two guides:
The Money Advice Service offers advice on all aspects of paying for care and support.