Local authority funding for care costs – do you qualify?

Money Advice Service

If you need support with day-to-day tasks, or you need to move into a care home, your local authority might help with the costs of care. Exactly how much you get will depend on your care needs and how much you can afford to pay.

What care services do local authorities provide?

As well as providing places in care homes, local authorities can help you stay in your own home if you have care needs.

Services they provide include:

  • meals
  • carers
  • transport
  • home modifications
  • equipment that helps with the tasks of daily living.

Some services are provided free but your local authority will only pay for other services if your income and savings are low.

If you don’t fully qualify for help, you’ll either need to pay something towards your care costs, or meet the full cost yourself.

If you have a disability or complex medical condition that means you have healthcare needs rather than social care needs, you might qualify for NHS funding.

How to find out if you qualify for local authority funding for care costs

Contact the social services department of your local authority to find out whether you’re eligible for funding.

If you have savings and assets of more than the amount in this table, you’ll have to pay for your own care:

Region Savings threshold for local authority funding in 2019/20
England £23,250
Wales £24,000 (care at home) or £50,000 (care in a care home)
Scotland £27,250
Northern Ireland £23,250

If your income and savings are above this limit it’s still worth contacting the local authority.

As you still have the right to a care needs assessment, regardless of your financial situation.

Your local authority or trust might still take some of your income, if you’re below these limits.

Getting a local authority care needs assessment

Before they can help, your local council must carry out a care needs assessment. It’s free and it’s your legal right to have one.

You should not be refused an assessment because the local authority thinks your needs aren’t great enough or that you won’t qualify for financial help.

The local authority will identify your care needs and check that they meet a nationally agreed set of criteria.

If you qualify for help, they have a legal duty to provide or arrange the services you need.

They will then carry out a financial assessment to work out if you should pay towards any services you need.

Find out more about the care needs assessment.

If you live in Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland, your local Health and Social Care Trust will carry out a social care needs assessment.

Self-assessment

You can also assess your own care needs or complete an assessment for someone else.

This could be done online and sets out in your own words the care that you think you, or a person you care for, might need.

If your local authority agrees with this self-assessment, you’ll be able to access the same range of support services as if you’d been through a full care needs assessment from a local authority care specialist.

Financial assessment and eligibility

If you qualify for help, the local authority will carry out a financial assessment, called a ‘means test’.

This helps to work out how much you should pay towards the cost of your care.

The outcome of the financial assessment

The outcome of the financial assessment will be that the local authority will either:

  • agree to meet the full cost of your care needs
  • agree to meet some of the cost (and you’ll need to top up the rest)
  • leave you meet the full cost of your care.

If your local authority is supporting you they will then set up a personal budget for you which keeps track of the costs of your care

Deciding who manages your personal care budget

If you do qualify for financial help, you can:

  • ask your local authority to arrange the care services for you
  • receive direct payments from the council and organise things yourself. This can mean greater independence, choice and control of your care and your finances
  • ask someone else to manage your budget and organise services for you. This could be a family member, friend, care professional or an independent advocate.
Read our guide Direct payments explained.

What to do if you don’t agree with the council’s decision

You can challenge your local authority’s decision if:

  • they refuse to pay for your care services
  • you don’t think you’ve been offered enough support to meet your needs.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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