Your guide to care and support

Council funding for care

Your council may pay for some or all of your support if your needs meet the eligibility criteria and you have a limited ability to pay for the services yourself.

There are some services that the local council has to provide free. For other services, it may carry out a financial assessment to see if you should pay for, or contribute to, the cost.

If your local council will pay for some or all of your care, you will be given a personal budget, and it could:

  • provide the care directly to you, either through its own staff or through an organisation it has contracted to do so
  • give you direct payments that enable you to buy the services directly with money given to you

For more information, see Choosing care.

Services the council must provide free of charge

There are some items the local council must provide for free if you are assessed as needing them.

These are:

  • household equipment 
  • minor adaptations to your home 
  • help after hospital discharge

Household equipment

Household equipment includess items specifically designed to make daily life easier for you.

For example:

  • equipment to help with zips or buttons
  • telephones with large buttons or flashing lights
  • communication aids
  • telecare equipment

The need for this type of equipment will come out of a care needs assessment. However, your council may claim the equipment you need could be used by anyone.

For example, an electric tin opener might be helpful, but your local council may regard it as "ordinary equipment" that it will not fund. You could argue it would be reasonable and sensible to provide equipment that will help with your assessed needs.

A local council may have set rules about the type of equipment it will consider supplying, or the level of costs it will meet. If this is the case, you could argue they shouldn't have blanket policies about the equipment they will provide and should make decisions depending on individual circumstances.

If you disagree with a decision about community equipment, use the council's complaints procedure.

Minor adaptations to your home

Minor adaptations costing less than £1,000 are provided by local councils for free. Minor adaptations include:

  • grab rails to make it safer to get in and out of a bath
  • blocks to make beds higher
  • raised toilet seats and bath seats

In some cases you may be asked to pay associated costs, such as maintenance charges. If you disagree with the decision about a minor adaptation, use the complaints procedure.

If the adaptation will cost more than £1,000, you may be eligible for a disabled facilities grant.

Care after hospital discharge

Intermediate care (also known as reablement services) is meant to help people adapt to a recent illness or disability by learning or relearning the skills necessary for independent daily living at home.

Intermediate care may be offered to someone who has recently come out of hospital. It can include:

  • helping you carry out daily activities such as cooking and having a shower or bath
  • looking at whether you need support to go out, or whether you could benefit from a personal alarm or telecare
  • involving your relatives or carers in helping you live more independently, and discussing any support they might need

Intermediate care should be free for up to 6 weeks. In some cases the support may be expected to last longer than 6 weeks – for instance, if you have recently become sight impaired – and the local council should consider the benefits of this, including the reduced risk of hospital readmissions.

Financial assessment for care and support services

If you have been assessed as needing care services, your local council will carry out a financial assessment (a means test) to see if you should pay something towards the cost of your care.

This assessment looks at your income, including tax credits and some benefits.

If you need to go into a care home, the council must ensure you have enough money to spend on any personal items you might need, such as clothes and toiletries. This is known as a personal expenses allowance (PEA).

A local council has the discretion to allow a larger personal expenses allowance – for example, if you have dependent children, or you are a temporary resident and also need to meet the costs of your own property. If you'd experience hardship if the allowance was not increased, complain about this to the council

If you are receiving care in your own home, the council must make sure you have enough money left after charges to meet your living costs, such as rent and food. This is known as the minimum income guarantee (MIG). The levels are the equivalent of Income Support plus 25%, and the amounts are set out in regulations.

How your assets and savings are means-tested

The local council will also look at your capital, such as savings and property. Currently, councils won't contribute to the cost of your care if you have more than £23,250 in savings (this does not include the value of your property unless you're moving into a care home). 

Support is means-tested, which means the council will carry out a financial assessment to work out what you can afford to contribute towards the cost of your care.

If you have more than this capital limit because of the value of your home, but you have a low income, the council may allow you to defer payment while you arrange to sell your home.

If the council thinks you have deliberately got rid of capital to get financial assistance, it will treat you as if you still had that capital. This could apply if you:

  • spent money on a non-essential or luxury item
  • gave money away
  • gave away property or a share of property

If the council decides you have deliberately got rid of capital, you will be treated as if you still had it. This is known as notional capital. Notional capital is treated as gradually reducing over time to a point where you qualify for full help.

You can use the council's complaints system to dispute a decision. If you disagree with the council's assessment of your needs or your finances, you can challenge the decision.

Contact your local council to discuss how to do this. If the situation is complicated – for example, around deprivation of capital - get specialist legal advice.

Top-ups and choice of services

If you are receiving council support with the cost of your care and you need to live in a certain place to receive that care, such as a care home, you have the right to choose where you live.

The council must give you at least one choice that is affordable from the amount identified in your personal budget, and ideally more than one. Some councils will have a list of preferred providers that they will usually recommend.

If you don't like the provider that your council suggests, or you or the person you care for have a particular service in mind, ask the council to arrange it.

If you choose a care home that is more expensive than the amount set out in your personal budget, a third party such as a relative or friend must be willing and able to pay the difference for the likely duration of your stay. This is known as a top-up payment.

Where a third party agrees to enter into a top-up payment, they have to sign a written agreement with the council. This agreement sets out what the costs are, how often they have to be paid, and what will happen if they are no longer able to make the payment.

In some limited circumstances you can make this payment. This is if you enter into a deferred payment scheme, or you benefit from the value of your property being disregarded for the first 12 weeks of your care.

The restrictions on paying this additional cost yourself will be lifted from April 2020, when the point at which means-tested support for care costs is increased.

The local council can never require you to pay a top-up payment and must give you at least one choice within the amount set in your personal budget. Any arrangements to pay a top-up must involve your council, and should not be directly between you and your provider.

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2018
Next review due: 15/01/2021