What you read about care fees may lead you to being wrongly charged
There are many websites and guides available about paying care fees, but they don’t all give you the full picture. Many are actually misleading – even if they don’t mean to be. So be careful when you’re researching on behalf of yourself or a relative.
Most information published on the web and elsewhere about care fees and care funding focuses first on means testing and local authority funding. However, this often leads families down the path of paying for care when it’s not appropriate.
Many families are also given misleading information by the health and social care authorities themselves. This is clear from the experiences of hundreds of families who contact us.
Whether or not you pay for care does not depend on your financial situation. It depends on your care needs. That’s something few families seem to be told.
It’s an assessment for NHS Continuing Healthcare that actually decides who is responsible for paying for care – not whether a person has savings or a house. This principle is reinforced in the National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare and is also supported in the new Care Act 2014, including when a person is being discharged from hospital.
In most guides and books about care and care matters, NHS Continuing Healthcare is usually given just a very small mention as an ‘aside’ – if indeed it gets any mention at all – and this exacerbates the problem. The undue focus on local authority funding, capital thresholds and means testing is exactly what has led to the tens of thousands of retrospective claims for NHS Continuing Healthcare in recent years – not to mention untold distress to families when they realise their relatives should not have been means tested in the first place.
By assessing for financial means first, instead of for NHS Continuing Healthcare eligibility, a local authority (and those working within it) are putting themselves in a potentially unlawful position, as the care needs they are potentially taking responsibility for may be beyond the legal limit for local authority care. This is clear in case law, including the Coughlan case, but sadly often seems to be ignored by both the NHS and local authorities.
So if you’re reading information online or elsewhere about care fees, or receiving advice about paying for care, remember that it first has to be properly established who is actually responsible for paying (i.e. the NHS or the local authority).
Another common thread in many guides to care fees is Funded Nursing Care (FNC). Very often families will read, or be told, that this payment may be available to help with care fees. What they should be told is that FNC is only awarded after an assessment for NHS Continuing Healthcare – and it is given to people with some nursing care needs who don’t qualify for full Continuing Healthcare funding. Families report that FNC is instead often given without any reference to full funding – and this means a person may be wrongly paying for the majority of their care themselves.