Are you a carer looking after a relative or friend?
Or are you being cared for by someone close to you?
Then it’s very important to know about the changes coming into place through the Care Act.
Even if you’re not being cared for – or caring for someone else – right now, it’s still essential to know about these changes if you think you might do so in the future.
You need to know your rights and what support is available to you.
- What is the Care Act?
- What are the changes and how will they affect you?
- Major changes from 2016
- Is this all good news?
- Where to go for more help
The Care Act is an important piece of legislation, coming into affect this April, which will introduce new responsibilities for local authorities.
It has been described as the biggest transformation to care for 60 years and will replace most existing laws about carers and those being cared for.
- There are currently over one million people receiving care and support in England
- There are over five million unpaid carers.
- This means that 1.5 million people will need to find out how the changes will affect them, as well as anyone who is contemplating what care they are soon going to need.
Most of the major changes come into affect April 2015 and they include:
Carers may be entitled to more help.
Currently carers are only entitled to an assessment if they can show they provide ‘regular and substantial care.’
However from April,
- carers will be entitled to assessment regardless of how many hours of care they provide or the financial position of the person they care for.
- All the carer will need to show is they have needs that require meeting as they look after the person they are caring for.
- If you’re a carer you could be entitled to support to help you take a break, be able to attend local support groups and maybe even be given a budget which you can spend to make your caring duties easier.
Deferred payment agreements
At the moment, if you have over £23,250 in savings (including in assets, such as your property) then you will need to sell your assets to cover the cost of your care.
Only when you are under the £23,250 threshold will you be able to receive support.
However, from April you will be able to defer paying your care fees until after your death – meaning you won’t have to sell your home while you’re alive.
A nationally agreed eligibility criteria
Local councils currently have different thresholds for eligibility and have different ways and levels of meeting needs. This means the quality and quantity of care you may receive is something of a postcode lottery.
- Thankfully the Care Act changes will introduce a nationally agreed eligibility criteria which means care will be much more uniform across the country
- Should you wish to move, you won’t be risking getting a lower standard of care (unless, of course, your current local authority is offering significantly more help than required.)
More people will be eligible for support
At the moment, councils only have to provide for those people considered to be in critical need.
However it’s expected that the new Care Act changes criteria will result in councils having to provide for what is currently deemed ‘substantial’ need, so more people should be entitled to care.
This will mean that if you’re currently receiving a care plan then you may be reassessed, but this should hopefully work out in your favour.
Access to advice
Councils are obliged to make sure people can access independent financial advice so that they can talk through the funding available for care.
The advice has to be available to everyone, so simply offering it online will not be enough.
This applies particularly to people who won’t be receiving funding. The council must show you how best to pay for your care and assist in providing services should you need them (it’s a good idea to go to your council for this as they may well be able to provide cheaper services.)
Not all of the changes brought about by the Care Act will come into effect in 2015 – some of them (including, perhaps, the most significant change) will come into effect in 2016.
This is probably the change that you are mostly likely to have heard of.
At the moment, if you do not qualify for support from the council then you will have to keep spending until you have no-more than £23, 250 in savings.
However from 2016 there will be a cap of £72,000 – this means that once you’ve spent £72,000 on your care then the council will start paying for your care needs.
This is, as you can probably see, particularly significant as it means people with substantial savings will not have to spend it all on their care – good news for your family!
If you or the person you care for is currently paying for their own care, it will be important to have a needs assessment (expected to be carried out from November 2015) so the council know how much you’re paying from 2016 onward.
Changes to the capital limit
Currently, if you have more than £23,250 in savings then you’ll have to pay for all your care – this is known as the ‘upper capital limit.’
If you’re below this amount then you’ll receive some aid, but you still have to make some contributions until you meet the lower capital limit – £14,250.
However from April 2016 the upper capital limit will rise to £118,000 when the value of someone’s home is included and £27,000 when the value of someone’s home is not included.
The lower capital limit will rise to £17,000.
This means that people who are currently receiving help from the council should receive more help and those who don’t currently qualify for help might now be entitled to it.
Yes, it certainly seems to be.
The Care Act should result in more financial support for both carers and those being cared for.
Andrew Cane, Head of Policy for older people’s charity Independent Age, says that the new system is generous but he’s concerned about the pressure it will put on local authorities who are already being squeezed and may not have the funding to implement the reforms.
Last year saw a 5% drop in adult social care jobs and Cane hopes that this is not a continuing trend.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says “Care and support in England is in dire financial crisis and the system on the verge of collapsing unless it is radically and urgently reformed.
“Local authorities are struggling to provide services due to extensive cuts to budgets, creating huge pressures in the care system which hurt some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“There needs to be a frank and honest debate around the funding of care and who will have to pay for what. The Government needs to address the funding shortfall and give people a realistic idea of what they can expect to be paying for in the future.”
If you’re looking to find out more about how the new rules will affect your specific situation, there are some great charities and organisations you can contact including:
What do you think of the changes? How will they affect you? Let us know in the comments section below.