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The thorny issue of paying for nursing care has, once again, hit the headlines in the lead up to the General Election. Teresa May had announced proposals to change the current system as part of her Manifesto pledge. However, the Tory Party proposals were met with fierce citisicism with many labelling the proposals as nothing short of a crude "Dementia Tax". As a result, Teresa May was forced into what some commentators called an embarrassing "U-Turn" where she had to clarify the proposed new rules.
So how does the current system work? If you have been assessed as needing nursing or residential care in a nursing home and your capital is below £23,250, you will be entitled to financial support from the local authority in paying for your nursing care costs. If you have capital below £14,250 the local authority will cover the cost of your care although you will still contribute your income less £23.90 per week retained for personal expenses. If you have capital between £14,250 and £23,250 you will also pay a capital tariff of £1 per week for each £250 or part thereof between these two figures. If your assets, which may include your property, exceed £23,250 in value you will, in most cases, be expected to privately pay for your own care.
If you need domcilliary care in your own home (rather than having to go into a nursing/residential care home) your assets are still assessed but in establishing how much you have yo pay towards your own care, your own house or property was always excluded and not taken into account by the local authority as part of the financial assessment.
As part of the Conservative Party Election Manifesto they announced that the rules would be changed. The key change was that the capital threshold would be increased from £23,250 to £100,000. This would mean that unless your capital exceeded £100,000, the State would pay for, or at least contribute, to the costs of your care in a nursing home. This was generally seen as a positive measure as only those with assets over £100,000 would be expected to pay for their own care.
However, the key change related to those who need care in their own home. Previously, where an individual`s house would not be taken into account, the new proposals would seek include the value of an individual`s house. The costs of the care would then be clawed back by the Government after that individual had died. This proposal has caused much consternation and has, by many, been argued as being inherently unfair. For example, for someone suffering from dementia, being cared for at home, the costs of care could be exhorbitant. A dementia sufferer may be in relatively good physical health and go on living at home for many years. During this time, the costs of care would stack up and eventually have to be repaid when that person dies when the house is sold. This is why some critics called the new proposals an unfair "dementia tax".
In light of the above, Teresa May announced that their would be a lifetime "cap" on the amount anybody would have to pay for the care they receive. We do not know the level of this so called cap or how it would work in principle. The Conservatives say that they will consult on this issue before making any firm decision as to the level of the cap.
Some may recall The Dilnot Commission which was set up in July 2010 by the coalition Government, tasked with making recommendations for changes to the funding of care and support in England. Following the Dilnot Report, a proposed cap of £72,000 was recommended and, originally, the new cap was scheduled to be introduced in 2020. This was subsequently scrapped and we have no idea whether the new cap will be around the same figure or completely different.
The issue of paying for nursing care and protecting assets is a major area concern for many. We would always recommend taking professional legal advice to discuss your own circumstances.
If you would like any further information or advice, please contact James Rousell - firstname.lastname@example.org or 01384 371622