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Change in care culture

PUBLISHED: 12:13 14 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:18 14 July 2015

Care is now more in the hands of individuals

Care is now more in the hands of individuals

Archant

The new Care Act has put the focus on personal responsibilty for adult care. Susan Glenholme, partner at Hertfordshire law firm Debenhams Ottaway, gives a guide to the changes

The Care Act 2014 has reformed the law on adult care. The aim is to put people in control of their own care and support and give carers important new rights.

The Act also places new obligations on local authorities about how they carry out assessments and what people can expect. Central to the assessment process is the ‘wellbeing principle’ which means that the focus in taking any decision should be a person’s wellbeing and independence.

If you or a loved one requires care, you should request an assessment from your local council, regardless of your ability to pay for the care you may need. All councils will use the new national eligibility criteria to make their decision about granting help. These criteria include nutrition, hygiene and safety at home. If you don’t meet the criteria, the council should provide information about how to arrange and pay for your own care. This might be, for example, finding someone to help with housework. The aim is that those who need care do not deteriorate to crisis point before being assessed.

The new law also means that carers are entitled to a carer’s assessment, where the carer appears to have a need for support. This will look at what the carer wants from life, such as managing the existing care, going to work or doing more socially. The focus is adult carers, but there is provision to consider young carers too.

From April 2016, the government is capping care costs after the age of 65. The cap will be £72,000. Once a person’s eligible needs are worked out, the local authority will calculate a personal budget. This will confirm what amount the local authority thinks is sufficient to meet the individual’s needs. Then there will be a financial assessment in relation to whether the person will need to contribute and if so, how much.

Although the care cap is an attempt to limit the costs of care, many people could still end up paying out much more than the £72,000 limit.

The average cost of a care home place in England is £574 per week, or nearly £30,000 per year. However, £230 of the weekly cost is deemed to be for normal living costs, such as a room, heating and food. That works out at nearly £12,000 per year but there would be at least some of the same costs to live in your own home. The living costs element continues even when the care cap has been reached.

Even if a person’s care home place spending counts towards the care cap, this is only at the rate the council would pay for the place. Many care homes charge people who are paying for their own care more, sometimes twice as much, to cover the true cost of the care.

For example, if a person is charged £1,000 per week but the council’s rate would be £730, then the living costs of £230 need to be deducted from the £730, giving a figure of £500. Only £500 per week will count towards the care cap, so by the time the person reaches the £72,000 cap, he or she will have actually paid out £144,000.

The BBC’s online Care Calculator is a practical tool for anyone wanting further information, but it does not replace advice from a qualified legal or financial professional.

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