Social care: how much do you really know?

Woman on the sofa

The social care system in this country is in crisis and Age UK is currently campaigning for the government to implement much-needed change.

But care is a mystery to many of us, so we've looked at 5 key areas that are commonly misunderstood to try and help explain the social care system better.

1. The costs of care

The common misconception: It's free isn't it?

The truth: Care isn’t free and it's easy to confuse healthcare services (which are free of charge) and social care services. 

Social care is means-tested which means that, if you have income or wealth, you may be asked to contribute or pay in full for services. 

Many people pay for care privately by directly arranging support with a provider organisation. People who receive support through a Local Authority may also be charged.

In England, if you are moving into a care home and have more than £23,250 in savings or assets (including your property, if no one else lives there), you will usually have to pay the full cost for the care home fees.

If you have less than £23,250, or your spouse or another dependent still lives in your home, you may qualify for council-funded care. The rules setting out how these payments work are set nationally by the Government.

You can also be charged for home care services, although the value of your house is not taken into account in this case. Local Authorities use national guidance for charging for home care services, but they are allowed to use their discretion and local charges and capital limits can vary.

2. Home help

The common misconception: Councils can provide home helps

The truth: Many councils now provide care only to people who have high levels of care needs. This is because in many areas demand for services outstrips the available funding, and so people with higher needs are the first priority. 

People with lower needs can arrange to have help with domestic tasks such as washing and cleaning, but it's likely these would have to be arranged privately rather than through a council.

3. Care workers' skills

The common misconception: Care staff are unskilled

Caring is a skilled profession, although, unfortunately, many care workers receive low levels of pay. Providing care is a difficult job and the sector is full of excellent care workers, social workers, advice workers and care coordinators.

Social workers and care home managers are required to have specific qualifications before they are allowed to practise and many other workers need to have on-going training to develop their skills. 

However, it’s not all about paper qualifications: the best care workers are those skilled in listening and engaging with older people so that they understand their needs better and can provide tailored support.

4. Paying for care

The common misconception: My home will be taken away from me if I need care

The truth: For some people the value of their house will be taken into account when charges are made for care services.

However, there are many people who will not be affected by these rules. For example, someone’s home is not taken into account in the means test for home care services.

Likewise, if there is a partner or dependent relative living in the property it remains outside of the residential care means test. 

There are also other options available to people who do need to use the value of their property to pay for care fees.

Local Authorities are able to offer people a deferred payment, where the council agrees to provide funding as a loan, which is repaid when the property is sold at a later date. This helps residents who do not wish to sell their former home immediately. 

Alternatively, some people choose to rent out an empty property, using the income to support with the care home fees.

5. Choice of care

The common misconception: There is no choice of services - you get what you’re given

The truth: Councils are increasingly designing services so that individuals are placed at the centre of the care arrangements, with full choice and control about what services and support they use to meet their assessed needs. 

People who are eligible for support are allocated a ‘personal budget’ and can receive it as a cash payment, or ask the council to arrange the support that they want. 

This is known as personalisation. It means that individuals work alongside the professionals to set up a care package that they are really happy with.

Explore further

opens link in new window Download the Care at home information guide (PDF 759 KB)

opens link in new window Download the Arranging your own care factsheet (PDF 392 KB)

 

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Age UK Advice:
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Useful information to download

  • This factsheet, Paying for care and support at home, explains the financial help available to pay for care to enable you to stay in your own home.

  • This information guide, Care at home, gives you an overview of how you can get care at home

  • This information guide, Personal budgets, explains how you can arrange your own care by being assigned your own budget - a system called personalisation.

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