According to Age UK, the average cost of care fees in the UK are a staggering £31,200 per annum for a residential care home, with care costs increasing to £41,600 per annum, if nursing care is required. Research undertaken by Age UK has also indicated that there is in fact a postcode lottery with the average cost of residential care varying drastically depending on where you live in the country. 

For many, these high fees will result in wealth saved over a lifetime being depleted in a short space of time, leaving substantially less for loved ones on death.   

Broadly speaking, if you have over £23,250 of capital you will be classed as a self-funder and will be responsible for the payment of your care. When your capital drops below this figure, you will still be expected to contribute from your income and the local authority will carry out a means test to establish how much you are responsible for paying.

Various governments have mooted changing these rules over the years, with the latest changes announced in September 2021.  The latest plan includes a lifetime cap on the amount anyone in England will need to spend on their personal care, in addition to a more generous means test for local authority financial support. 

The lifetime cap is set at £86,000, meaning no-one should pay more than this sum for their personal care, such as help with washing and dressing.  Once this limit is reached, the ongoing costs would be paid for by local authorities.

Additionally, the threshold for obtaining local authority support for costs is increasing to £100,000, from £23,250 and those with assets between £20,000 to £100,000 will get help towards costs from the local council. 

The changes are welcome, however there is always a downside.  The cap does not include living costs, such as food, accommodation and energy bills, which the government has said individuals will have to contribute themselves.  These costs will be set nationally and were set at the equivalent of £200 per week in 2021 to 2022.

Due to the current economic crisis, the implementation of these changes to the payment of social care have been postponed.  They are now due to take effect from October 2025, which is after the next election. They are therefore not set in stone, and it will depend on the government in power at that time whether alterations will be made to the current plan. 

I am saddened by yet more delay to the implementation of this scheme.  My clients continue to pay large sums of money accumulated over a lifetime for care, and successive governments promise to overhaul the system without fulfilling these promises.

So, in answer to the question of whether the current rules on care fees will change – perhaps? Only time will tell…………………….

Serena Elliott, Solicitor with Bate & Albon, Chichester