Costs of care - who pays for it?

Whatever your circumstances, the reality is that someone has to pay for care.

How much does care cost?

Care can be expensive. On average, a single room in a residential care home with nursing costs £45,760* per year in the UK. The exact costs will depend on a number of things, including what services are being provided and where the care home is – there are big differences in price, from region to region.  

Won't the government pay for it?

Unfortunately, it's likely you'll have to pay for some, if not all, of the care if you require it. Some costs may be paid for by the state, but this isn't always the case as they will only contribute to the costs of care if you have care needs that meet their 'eligibility criteria'. If not, all costs of care are your responsibility.

Also, much depends on how much capital you have – how much money you've saved, and what your house is worth. So if your savings, investments and equity in your home are more than the current limits, then yes, you will have to pay. The current limits (2020/21) are: 

  • England and Northern Ireland: £23,250
  • Wales: £50,000 (residential care) or £24,000 (non-residential care)
  • Scotland: £28,500

Also, in England or Northern Ireland, if your capital is between £14,250 and £23,250, you will have to pay towards the costs of your care. This is a contribution of £1 for every £250 of your savings between £14,250 and £23,250.

Only once you have spent down your assets and are left with less than £14,250 your care will be totally funded by the state. 

In Scotland, things work in the same way although the lower limit is £18,000. Additionally, if you're over 65 and are assessed as needing care in a care home then you are eligible to claim personal care payments, and possibly also nursing care payments, to contribute towards the cost of your care (some people under 65 may also be eligible for nursing care payments) these are:

  • £180 per week for personal care
  • £81 per week for nursing care
  • £261 per week for personal and nursing care.

These amounts will only be paid once the council has a contract with the care home, and payments are usually made directly to your chosen care home. 

In Wales it works slightly differently. It all depends on whether the care that you need is residential or non-residential. If you need residential care and you have assets above £50,000 you will be expected to fund it yourself. But if you need non-residential care, you only need to have assets above £24,000 before you are expected to fund your own care.

Which assets are included in working out how much I have to pay?

All of your assets are considered, including your share of jointly held assets. However, if any of the following apply to you, your home won't be included as 'capital' when your care costs are calculated.

  • If you have a spouse or partner still living in the property.
  • If it is occupied by a relative more than 60 years of age.
  • If a disabled relative lives in the property.
  • If you are responsible for a child under 18 who still lives in the property.
  • If you hold investments jointly with your spouse or partner, only half of these assets can be taken into account.

If I need care in my own home, how much will it be?

Generally, care that's provided in your home costs less than being looked after in a care home, but this does depend on the level of support and assistance required. If care needs increase then this situation can be reversed, as it's very common for round-the-clock domiciliary care with live in support to cost more than a room in a care home.

It may be worthwhile contacting your local authority to see if they can help you, or perhaps talking to some private domiciliary care providers to discuss your care needs and associated costs.

*(Laing and Buisson Care of Older People Report 30th Edition 2019)