When older people need care, there’s an incorrect focus on care fees means testing
…and yet care fees means testing should be done only after an NHS health needs assessment.
Over the past few years we’ve heard from hundreds of families who have an older relative needing full time care.
Almost all of them say that the first questions they are asked by the health and social care authorities are about their relative’s money.
The health and social care authorities seem to have made it a priority in many cases to do a financial assessment first and foremost. It means that anyone with savings or assets over the means test threshold will immediately be told to pay for care – when in fact the authorities should first assess people for their health and care needs.
There are 3 main reasons why care fees means testing should always come second:
- No one can possibly say whose responsibility it is to pay for your relative’s care until the full extent of your relative’s health and care needs has been assessed. This should be done by going through the NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment process. It is the outcome of this process that determines who pays for your relative’s care – not how much is in their bank account. Everyone who needs full time care and who has health issues should be assessed for NHS Continuing Healthcare.
- At the time of the Continuing Healthcare assessment, no one should ask your relative about their money. In the assessment, if the NHS assessor/decision-maker decides your relative is not a health service responsibility (i.e. ineligible for Continuing Healthcare funding) and if the local authority agrees with that, the local authority will by default be accepting responsibility for care. However, if this process has not been carried out properly, the local authority is in danger of breaking the law. Why? Because your relative’s care needs may be beyond that for which a local authority can legally take responsibility; it means the local authority will have failed to acknowledge the legal limit for local authority care that was reinforced in the Coughlan case.
- Plus, if the local authority does a financial assessment at the outset and starts asking your relative to pay for care, and yet it is later shown through assessment and appeal that your relative was eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding all along, two things will have happened: the NHS will have failed to meet its legal duty to provide care, and the local authority will have acted illegally in charging care fees in the first place – including top-up fees.
Do you need further help understanding how care fees and NHS funding work, and how to get through the NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment process? Our e-book, How To Get The NHS To Pay For Care, explains the whole process – with practical tips, advice and insights.