Care and support services in England have never been free. Most people have to pay something towards their own care and some will have to pay for all of the costs (external link).
Your local authority (council) may cover some or all of the cost of care in some circumstances, but its help is "means-tested". This means that who pays depends on what your needs are, how much money you have, and what level and type of care and support you require.
For most people needing social care services, the first place to start is by asking your local authority for an assessment of your social care (care and support) needs (external link).
If the local authority considers that you need support that it can provide, it may also carry out an assessment of your finances (external link). This assessment will determine whether the local authority will meet all the cost of your care, or whether you will need to contribute towards your care cost or whether you will have to meet the full costs yourself. Find out about support paid for by your local authority (external link).
Currently, local authorities won't provide care services if you have more than £23,250 in savings and property (your "capital"). However, from April 2020, this threshold will rise alongside the introduction of the cap on care costs, so more people will be eligible for help sooner.
Alternatives to care funded by the local authority
The NHS is responsible for funding certain types of healthcare equipment you may need. In some situations, the NHS is also responsible for meeting care needs. This is usually when your need is mainly for healthcare rather than social care
NHS care could be provided in hospital, but it could be in someone's own home or elsewhere in the community.
If the person you care for has very severe and complex health needs, they may qualify for NHS continuing healthcare (external link). This is an ongoing package of care that's fully funded by the NHS.
In some areas of the country, you can arrange your NHS Continuing Healthcare using a personal health budget - similar to the personal budgets for social care outlined above. Find out about personal health budgets (external link).
You should receive NHS-funded nursing care if:
- You live in a care home registered to provide nursing care, and
- You don't qualify for NHS continuing healthcare but have been assessed as needing care from a registered nurse
The NHS will make a payment directly to the care home to fund care from registered nurses who are usually employed by the care home.
For more information see What is NHS-funded nursing care? (external link)
People who were previously detained in hospital under certain sections of the Mental Health Act will have their aftercare (external link) services provided for free.
There are other sources of funding you might be able to access to help you with funding care. Some charities can help with funding care needs. For example, the Family Fund is a government-backed charity that can help with grants if you care for a severely disabled child aged 17 or under.
You can get an application pack from the Family Fund website (external link).
The cost of care and support is likely to be a long-term commitment and may be substantial, particularly if you choose to go into a care home, or if you have care needs at an early age. If you or a member of the family need to pay for care at home or in a care home, it's important to understand the alternatives. This makes advice tailored to your individual needs vital. You can get advice from:
- Your local authority - through an assessment of your care and support needs, as well as advice on which services are available locally
- Financial advice from a qualified, independent source - there are independent financial advisers who specialise in care funding advice; they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (external link) and must stick to a code of conduct and ethics, and take shared responsibility for the suitability of any product they recommend