Paying your own care costs if you've used all your savings

If the money you’ve been using to pay for your long-term care is running out, here are other ways to fund your care and how to apply for it.

First steps – take stock of your situation

Even if money your is running low, it’s important to know that you’re allowed to keep some savings and assets (such as your home) and still qualify for help with paying for your care

To qualify for help from your local authority (or in Northern Ireland, your local Health and Social Care Trust) your savings and certain assets need to be less than:

  • £23,250 – in England and Northern Ireland.
  • £28,500 – in Scotland.
  • £24,000 for care at home and £50,000 if you’re in a care home – in Wales.

If you’re a homeowner, the value of your home doesn’t count towards these limits if:

  • you’re receiving care at home; or
  • you’re in a care home, but your partner, spouse or another dependant still lives in your home.

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

Ask for a care needs assessment

If your savings are now below or close to the level where you might get help with funding, ask your local authority (or Health and Social Care Trust) for a care needs assessment.

This is the first step to finding out if you now qualify for local authority or NHS support.

The care needs assessment – and then confirmation of whether you’re entitled to funding – can take a while to complete. So it’s best to check you still have enough money to pay for your care during this time.

Expect the process to take about three months. If you have enough money to pay for about three months of your care, this should allow you enough time to get your funding confirmed and in place before it runs out.

It’s worth being aware that your local authority or trust can only provide funding from the date you contact them. If your money runs out before you contact them – they won’t be able to backdate funding.

If the care needs assessment shows you’re eligible for support, your local authority or trust will arrange a financial assessment. This is to see if you qualify for funding.

This will look at your income, savings and assets. It might show that you no longer need to fully fund your own care.

The assessment could show that your care needs now mean you need a place in a care home. You might be offered a home care package, or a place in sheltered housing or similar accommodation.

Depending on the outcome of the financial assessment, you might still need to pay some of your care costs.

So it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.

Here are some helpful guides:

How a local authority care needs assessment works

Means tests for help with care costs – how they work

Benefits you can claim when you have care needs

Check if you’re eligible for NHS continuing healthcare

Did you know?

NHS continuing healthcare funding could cover your accommodation costs if you’re in a care home that provides nursing care. If you stay at home, it could help towards your social care and healthcare costs.

If you’re an adult with a disability or complex medical problem, you might qualify for free NHS continuing healthcare. If you’re in the same situation and under 18, you might qualify for free NHS continuing care.

It covers personal care and healthcare costs. This includes help with everyday living tasks, nursing care or paying for specialist therapy.

It might also include accommodation if the care is provided in a care home, or support for carers if you’re being looked after at home.

If your increased costs are due to worsening health or injury, you might now qualify for this free support.

There’s also a chance that the eligibility criteria have changed since you were last assessed.

You might not even have heard about this type of funding before.

Either way, it’s definitely worth talking to your doctor, carer or social worker.

Even if you don’t qualify now, it’s worth keeping the situation under review if your condition deteriorates.

Take a look at our guide on Are you eligible for NHS continuing healthcare funding?

Will you be able to stay in your care home?

Don’t panic

There are always options to keep you in a place that meets your needs.

If your latest care needs assessment states that your needs would be best met by living in a care home, your local authority or trust must offer you a place in at least one care home. Ideally, they should offer you a choice.

However, the options they offer you might not include the care home that you’re already in if you’re now relying solely on local authority funding to pay for your care. This is because, the amount local authorities will fund is usually a lot less than care homes will charge people who are funding themselves

But this doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to move to another home.

First, check your contract with the care home. Some care providers will let you stay while you apply for funding. And they might accept the lower rate from your local authority so you wouldn’t have to move out.

If there will be a shortfall between what you and the local authority can afford and what the home will charge you may able to get family or friends to top up your contribution. This is called a ‘third party contribution’.

Or, there might be a charity or benevolent fund that can help you out.

Use the Turn2Us Grant Finder or call them on 0808 802 2000 to find out about organisations that might be able to help with top-ups.

If this isn’t possible you may be able to move to a cheaper or shared room in the same home.

If none of these options are possible, you might need to move to another care home that accepts the local authority funding as full payment.

You do have the right to choose your care home, as long as it meets the local authority’s criteria for your assessed needs.

See FirstStop’s advice on Choice and Council Funded Care home Placements.

Funding long-term care if you’re a homeowner

If you’re a homeowner there are several ways equity in your home can help fund your long term care

Moving to a smaller property

This could free up the money you need to pay for your care. Moving somewhere better suited to your needs might also improve your quality of life and bring you closer to friends and relatives.

See our guide on Downsizing your home to fund your long-term care.

Using an equity release scheme

If you want to stay in your own home, you could look at schemes that release some of the capital in your home to pay for your care.

Take a look at our guide on Using an equity release scheme to fund your care.

Using a deferred payment scheme

Your local authority can offer you the option of delaying payments so you don’t have to sell your home to pay for a care home. This is known as a deferred payment.

If you have enough equity in your home, a deferred payment agreement could allow you to pay for top-up care yourself and allow you to live in a more expensive care home than the local authority will fund.

The local authority will then reclaim what you owe in fees when you sell your house, or from your estate after your death.

Read our guide on Deferred payment agreements for people who own their own home and are moving into a care home.

Renting out your home

Alongside the deferred payment scheme, you could choose to let your home. You could then use the rental income to reduce the amount you have to borrow from the local authority.

Take a look at our guide on Financial responsibilities if you rent out a property.

Using the 12-week property disregard

If you need to live in a care home permanently, you may be entitled to 12 weeks free.

This free 12 weeks is designed to give people time to prepare for their future. It enables you to work out what longer-term solutions will be right for them, before making any final solutions.

If you’re eligible, the local authority must not include the value of your property in your financial assessment for 12 weeks. This is called a 12-week property disregard. The local authority will contribute to your care home fees during this time, or until you sell your property, if sooner.

Find out more about the 12-week property disregard, including who is eligible.

If your local authority doesn’t offer a 12-week property disregard on the grounds that you were a self-funding permanent care home resident, make a complaint about this decision and ask for it to be reviewed.

To find out how, see our guide on How to challenge your local authority over your care.

Find out more about capital thresholds for paying for long-term care in our Local Authority funding for care costs – do you qualify?opens in new window guide.

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