You might be eligible for the local council to pay towards the cost of your social care if you have less than £23,250 in savings (called the upper capital limit, or UCL). From October 2025 this will rise to £100,000 in savings.
Exactly how much your council will pay depends on what care you need and how much you can afford to pay.
Find out if the local council will pay towards your social care
The first step is for your council to do an assessment to check how much help you need. This is called a needs assessment.
The needs assessment is free and anyone can ask for one. Find out more about getting a needs assessment.
If you need care, the council will then do a financial assessment (means test) to work out what you will have to pay towards the cost of your care.
The means test works out if:
- the council pays the maximum amount towards your care and you might have to pay a contribution too
- the council pays a smaller part of the cost and and you pay the rest
- you pay the full cost of your care
The financial assessment is free. It can be arranged for you after your needs assessment. Read more about the financial assessment.
How the council pays for and arranges your care
If the council is going to pay towards your care, you'll get a personal budget. The amount will be worked out when the council makes a care and support plan with you.
You can choose to get your personal budget in 3 ways, or a combination of them:
- a direct payment into your bank account for you to use for some types of care – the council will usually ask for receipts to see you're spending the money on care
- the council arranges for your care and pays your care providers for you
- an organisation you choose, such as an individual service fund, manages your personal budget for you
You can speak to someone for advice on personal budgets by calling the Disability Rights UK Personal Budgets Helpline on 0330 995 0404.
If the council is arranging your care, you still have the right to decide how your personal budget is spent.
If you need to live in a care home, you have the right to choose where you live. The council must give you at least one affordable choice. Some councils have a list of homes they recommend.
If you choose a care home that's more expensive than your personal budget, a relative or friend can pay the difference (this is called a top up fee). They will have to sign an agreement with the council and care home which sets out the costs, how often they have to be paid, and what will happen if they can no longer make the payment.
If you're not happy with the type of paid home help the council suggests, you can look for services the council provides and ask them to change who provides you help at home, if they can.
You can speak to someone for advice and help with care costs and benefits from:
- Age UK on 0800 678 1602
- Independent Age on 0800 319 6789
- Money Helper on 0800 111 3797
What you can get for free
There are some services the council has to provide free of charge if you've been assessed as needing them. These services aren't means-tested and it doesn't matter what your income is. These include:
- small bits of equipment or home adaptations that each cost less than £1,000
- care after you have been discharged from hospital – this is a mix of social care and support with help from NHS staff
Read more about care and support you can get for free.
How to complain
You can challenge your council's decision if:
- they refuse to pay for care services
- you're unhappy with the service you've been offered
- you don't think they’re paying enough towards your care
First complain directly to your local council. Your council should have a formal complaints procedure on its website. Or you can phone them.
If you're not happy with the way the council handles your complaint, take it to the local government and social care ombudsman. An ombudsman is an independent person who's been appointed to look into complaints about organisations.