The cost of long-term care can be eye-watering, so if you need to pay for help in later life, it’s understandable you might be worried about your money running out.

After all, no-one can know how long they’re going to live for, or what type of help they may need in the future, which makes it extremely difficult to budget for care costs. If you move to a residential nursing care, for example, costs can easily exceed £1,000 per week.

If you’re paying for care and your savings run low, there are steps you’ll need to take to ensure that you’re still properly taken care of.

Here, we look at your options if you or your loved one is running out of money to pay for care.

Will the government pay for my care if I run out of money?

At present, anyone in England with savings assets worth over £23,250 (including their property), must pay for the cost of care. If your assets fall below this value, your local council will begin contributing to your care costs. Once the value of your assets falls below £14,250, they will fully cover your care costs.

From October 2025, the government has proposed that this threshold should change, and you won’t have to make any contribution towards care costs if your assets are worth less than £20,000. If your assets are worth between £20,000 and £100,000, you’ll be entitled to some means-tested support, and anyone with assets above £100,000 won’t be eligible for funding until they have paid £86,000 towards the cost of their care. Read more in our article How to pay for long-term care.

Care costs: when the council might pay for your care

 Care costs coveredCare costs partially coveredPay your own care costs 
EnglandAssets less than £14,250Assets between £14,250 – £23,250Assets more than £23,250
N. Ireland£14,250£14,250 – £23,250£23,350
Scotland£18,500£18,500 – £29,750£29,750
Ireland£50,000n/a£50,000

If you’re paying for care, whether at home or in a residential care home, for example, and your savings fall below the care threshold funding level, your local authority is obliged to contribute to the cost of your care (read more about this below).

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Requesting a care needs assessment

If your savings are running low, the first step is to contact your local authority so they can carry out a care needs assessment.

Ideally, you or a relative should request that this is done at least several weeks before your savings fall below the threshold for care funding (see above) to ensure support can be put in place before your money runs out. If you’re found to be eligible, support may be provided for a home care package, or a place in a care home, for example.

If you’re in a care home, a relative or a carer can request a care needs assessment on your behalf. At the same time as your care needs are considered, a financial assessment will be done. This determines whether you’ll qualify for financial support from your local authority or the NHS if you’re no longer able to pay for all your own care. You may have already gone through this process in the past and had funding refused, but as your needs and your financial situation changes over time, you may undergo several assessments while you’re in care.

You can request a needs assessment from your care home, your local authority, or your local Health and Social Care Trust if you live in Northern Ireland. You can request a care needs assessment on behalf of a relative or friend but they must agree to this, unless you have Power of Attorney and they do not have the capacity to make their own decisions.

What happens during a care needs assessment?

The care needs assessment is designed to find out what your or your loved one’s particular needs are and the level of care required. It looks at your or their mobility, health, and management of everyday tasks.

Usually, the process of evaluating care needs involves a social care professional visiting the person’s home (or care home) to see how they’re coping with everyday tasks. They consider everything from health, which tasks they’re struggling to do, what sort of support network is in place, living arrangements and mental wellbeing.

If you are undergoing a care needs assessment, or a relative or friend is, consider what particular support might be needed, such as help with getting dressed, washed or taking medicine. If possible, a relative, friend or carer can be there during your care needs assessment to help clarify requirements and provide support. If someone doesn’t have anyone who can be there, and they are unable to understand or communicate effectively with others, the council must provide a social worker to support them through the process.

If a care needs assessment states that the person’s needs would be best met by living in a care home, their local council must offer a place in at least one care home, and usually they should offer a choice.

Will you have to pay for your loved one’s care if they run out of money?

If a family member is currently resident in a care home, or expected to need significant care, you may worry that you must cover costs if their money runs out and they’re unable to pay themselves. However, this isn’t the case, and you’re not responsible for their care costs.

Your income or assets as a relative are never considered when a financial means test is carried out by the local authority. Only the care home resident is responsible for the cost of their care, or the local authority if the person needing care runs out of money. If you are their partner and own assets jointly, they are considered to own half of those assets. If you jointly own a property, their share will only form part of the assessment if you don’t live there (read more below).

Can I stay in the same care home if my money runs out and I start receiving local authority funding?

Your local authority is likely to have a certain amount that it will pay towards the cost of a care home. If your home charges more than this, and your council thinks you could be cared for sufficiently in a cheaper home, it may recommend that you move. However, those making these decisions also have to consider whether moving you to another home will impact on your physical or mental wellbeing.

Bear in mind that care providers are usually understanding and in some cases may consider taking steps to ensure that you can remain in your current home. You or a friend or relative may want to check the contract or speak to the home to see what may be done in this scenario. For example, you may be able to take steps such as moving to a cheaper room. Some care homes may also accept a lower rate from your local council funding to enable you to stay there, or there may be a charity that can provide funding to meet the shortfall.

If the cost of your current care home means you’re unlikely to be able to stay there, your local authority should suggest a few alternatives to choose from. Speak to your current care home about the situation, as they are often happy to let you stay while you sort this out, and may even provide support for you to view other homes.

Find the UK's best care options with Lottie

Not sure where to start looking for care for your loved ones? Find the UK’s best care options, handpicked and vetted by experts on Lottie. They’ll guide you through every step of finding the right care.

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Top-up fees

If the amount that your local authority will pay isn’t enough to cover your care home fees, a relative or friend can help with the cost by paying top-up fees. These meet the shortfall between local authority funding and your care home fees, so you may be able to remain where you are if the cost would otherwise be too expensive.

Anyone paying top-up care home fees will need to sign a contract to meet this cost, so they must be able to afford the cost and commit to paying these charges while you remain in the home. Bear in mind, too, that care home costs can increase over time, and/or circumstances may change, so it’s important to consider what happens if costs can’t be met at any stage.

Do I qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare?

A relative or friend who has ongoing, complex care needs may be eligible for a little-known support package called NHS Continuing Healthcare (NHS CHC). This covers the cost of residential care for people who have complex healthcare needs. It’s worth applying if you think a relative might be entitled to this funding, although the assessment process can be onerous. Many applications aren’t successful, but it may be worth persevering. In 2021/22, around 104,000 in England received NHS Continuing Healthcare funding, down from 160,000 in 2015. You can read more in our guide NHS Continuing Healthcare: can you get care fees covered?

If you don’t qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare, you may still be entitled to NHS-funded Nursing care if you need nursing care in a care home or nursing home, which contributes towards the cost of your care. This may be paid directly to the care home, but check how this could work to reduce costs with the particular home.

Will I have to sell my home to pay for care?

You may worry that you’ll be forced to sell your home if you run out of money to pay care costs. If your partner is still living at home, though, your property isn’t included in the financial assessment for care costs, so this won’t be the case, whether you’re married or not. Read more in our article Will I have to sell my home to pay care fees?

You may have to sell your home to pay care fees, though, if you move into a residential care home and there are no dependants still living in your own home. There are alternatives such as equity release, or a deferred payment plan where your local authority delays payments which are made when your home is sold after you die. It’s worth considering all your funding options before selling your home, as there may be more available than you think.

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