Local authority funding for care costs – do you qualify?

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. How much will depend on your care needs and what you can afford.

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.

Local authorities may provide some of these services free to everyone who needs them. But for most care services, your local authority will only pay if your income and savings are low.

Even if you qualify for maximum funding from your local authority, you’ll usually still need to pay something towards your care costs. If you have lots of savings or a high income, you’ll probably have to 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.

Find out more in our Are you eligible for NHS continuing healthcare funding? {:target=”_blank”}guide.

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

Contact the social services department of your local authority to ask for a care needs assessment. Either at the same time as the needs assessment or soon just after, your local authority will carry out a financial assessment to see if you’re eligible for funding.

If you have savings and assets of more than the amounts in this table, you’ll have to pay for your own care in full (middle column) or in part (last column):

Region Upper savings threshold for any local authority funding in 2020-21 Lower savings threshold for maximum local authority funding in 2020-21
England £23,250 £14,250
Wales £24,000 (care at home) or £50,000 (care in a care home) £24,000 (care at home) or £50,000 (care in a care home)
Scotland £28,500 £18,000
Northern Ireland £23,250 £14,250

If your savings are above the upper limit (shown in the middle column of the table), you’ll have to pay your full care costs yourself until your savings have fallen below that threshold. However, it’s still worth contacting your local authority or trust, as you still have the right to a free care needs assessment, regardless of your financial situation.

If your savings are below the upper limit, but above the lower limit (shown in the last column), your local authority will pay some of your care costs, but you’ll also be expected to contribute out of your savings. This doesn’t apply in Wales, where there’s just one savings limit – you get no funding (above the limit), you get some help (below the limit).

Even if your savings are below the lower limit, which means you get the maximum funding from your local authority, you’ll usually still be expected to pay part of your income towards the cost of care.

Getting a local authority care needs assessment

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

You shouldn’t 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.

Financial assessment and eligibility

If you qualify for help, your local authority will carry out a financial assessment.

This is called a ‘means test’. It helps to work out how much you should pay towards the cost of your care.

Find out more in our Means tests for help with care costs – how they work guide.

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.

You’ll get a statement called a ‘personal budget’ that sets out the cost of the care, the amount you must pay and how much the local authority will pay.

Our guide on Self-funding your long-term care – your options has more information.

Deciding who manages your personal care budget

If you qualify for financial help, you can:

  • ask your local authority to arrange the care services for you
  • receive direct payments from the local authority and organise things yourself. This can give you more independence, choice and control of your care and your finances
  • have a ‘mixed package’. This is where the local authority arranges some parts of your care and you receive direct payments for other parts.

If you opt for direct payments, you can 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.

Find out more in our Direct payments - arranging and paying for care guide.

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

You can challenge the 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.

See our guide on How to challenge your local authority over your care.opens in new window

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