Medical treatment under the NHS is supposedly free at the point of delivery for all UK citizens. Adult social care, however, is means-tested. 

In essence, individuals assessed as needing care in a care home have to pay for it themselves if they have assets, including the value of their home, of more than £23,250. If they need care in their own home, the same capital threshold still applies but the value of their home is excluded. If they have assets below £23,250 but
above £14,250, they pay a sliding scale.

One of many local care homes
CREDIT: Dave Young

Any income above £24.90 per week, including for instance from a state pension, will also be taken.

There is currently no cap on liability. So with the average care home fees running in the region of £35,000 per year, a three-year stay will cost over £100,000.

Under the system changes proposed by Health and Social Care minister Sajid Javid last week, applicable from October 2023, no-one should pay more than a cumulative lifetime sum of £86,000 for care provision. In addition, contributions would not be required from assets valued below £20,000 and discounts on a sliding scale would apply up to £100,000.

But it swiftly emerged that the £86,000 cap was not intended to cover ordinary living costs – food, energy bills and accommodation; only the specific care elements, for instance help in coping with daily tasks such as washing, dressing and eating. In the majority of care homes, the costs of the former might well exceed the latter – though it’s difficult to know this, since hitherto care homes have had no reason to itemise them separately. 

Read our opinion pieces here Asset-stripped: my father’s experience and An Unfair Levy


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