Long-term care has seldom been out of the headlines in the last few years. And no wonder – the system’s at absolute breaking point. And if you’ve run out of money, you’re often treated as invisible.
Thousands of people who require help to stay in their own homes in their later years are being dismissed by local councils as a result of a “needs assessment”.
Only those judged to have “critical” or “substantial” needs are eligible to receive formal assistance – those judged “moderate” or “low” are effectively ignored.
Running out of money
For those who move to a care home, a strict means testing system forces a high percentage to pay their own fees (to the tune of £30-50,000 a year) until their life savings and the value of their house have all but been exhausted.
For about a quarter of these “self-funders”, running out of money is a real concern. If this happens, they end up falling back on local authority support, facing the potential distress of having to move to a cheaper care home or getting their family to pay top-up fees to help them stay where they are.
We recently investigated how closely local authorities monitored self-funders in residential care and found that nearly half were unable to say how many there were in their area. Even more of them had no record of self-funders that ended up reliant on them after running out of money. These people seem to be off the radar.
Changes are afoot
It doesn’t have to be like this. A government-sponsored investigation into long-term care (the Dilnot report) recently stated that councils should be helping out self-funders by providing more information on how to pay for care and where to get proper financial advice.
We agree – and were pleased to find pockets of best practice, such as Buckinghamshire County Council, which has run a pioneering scheme with suitably qualified independent financial advisers (IFAs). West Sussex is also launching a new service with IFAs who belong to the Society of Later Life Advisers.
Both authorities hope that fewer people in their area will suffer the anxiety of running out of money and that less will fall back on the state, placing additional pressure on their already over-stretched resources.
Dilnot also proposes other reforms, such as a cap on the amount each individual will have to pay for their care and more generous means-testing limits. The government is currently considering the commission’s suggestions but after a decade of headlines and good intentions it’s surely time to act?
Have you had to arrange self-funded care? How easy did you find it to get good advice and how would you improve the system? Those in care have been invisible for too long – it’s time to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.