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Michael Graham discusses the rules around elderly care home fees and protecting other savings and investments.
There was a story in the news recently about difficulties which dementia patients have been having in accessing nursing care in parts of Northern Ireland. The Western Heath & Social Care Trust issued a statement to say that the bed capacity in the independent nursing home sector in County Fermanagh had decreased significantly in the last 18 months with the loss of 116 beds. As a result, they are reopening Drumclay Care Home which was only recently closed by its former owners because they had been unable to recruit enough experienced nursing staff. The Trust took the decision to re-open the home because of a shortage of dementia care in the Fermanagh area. Whilst this is an example of a positive move by a local Trust, one would imagine that the pressure on the care home system will only increase given our ageing population and the increase in the numbers of those diagnosed with, and living with, various forms of dementia. I am not even going to mention the impact of Brexit!
Many clients are understandably concerned about the possibility of needing care at some point in the future, and about the potential impact of care costs upon their finances and their children’s eventual inheritance. Consequently, advice is often sought as to how the family home and any other savings and investments can be protected in the event that an individual becomes unable to care for themselves.
The rules around care fees are complex but, broadly speaking, ‘domiciliary care’ provided in a person’s own home is not currently charged for but residential and nursing care is subject to a formal ‘means assessment’. Put simply, if an individual has capital over £23,250.00 then they may be liable to pay for their care, although a limited number of exemptions do apply. For example, the main home would be disregarded if occupied by a spouse or one of a number of other relatives mentioned in the applicable regulations. If a person’s capital falls to £14,250.00 then it will be fully disregarded and the relevant Health & Social Care Trust must meet any shortfall after the individual’s income has been exhausted.
The rules governing the means test procedure are contained in the Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide which is available from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. A resident will be required to give full details of their income and capital as part of the means test. However, it should be noted that there is no power for a Health & Social Care Trust to assess the financial resources of a person’s spouse or any other third party in calculating their liability to pay for their own care.
Anyone facing a possible liability to pay care fees should always take legal advice before completing any formal means assessment or dealing directly with the Health & Social Care Trusts over their finances. It is important to be familiar with the rules, especially those relating to the various exemptions which apply, before submitting any financial information.
At Cleaver Fulton Rankin we have considerable experience in dealing with matters affecting elderly clients, including wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney, Controllerships and nursing care fees. Should you wish to speak to one of our specialist solicitors please contact a member of our Private Client team using the details below.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Private Client team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.