Paying for residential care
Paying for residential care in a care home is expensive. There is some help available to meet the cost, but the care system can be complicated and difficult to find your way through.
You may be eligible for financial help from your local council or, in some circumstances, from the NHS.
Will the local council pay for my care home fees?
If you are eligible for funding support, your local council could pay some or most of the fees. The council will carry out a care needs assessment. If this concludes you need care in a care home, they will carry out a means test to work out whether you qualify for help with the cost. This will look at your income and capital.
Where do I start in arranging care?
The first step to getting care, whether you need home adaptations, home care or a care home place, is to get a care needs assessment from your local council.
How much will I have to pay for care?
If you are eligible for funding support, your local council must calculate the overall cost of your care and, using the means test, how much you have to contribute to the overall cost from your financial resources. The council must ensure that the overall cost figure it calculates, called the ‘personal budget’, is high enough to meet the cost of at least one suitable care home.
You will be expected to pay towards the cost from your income included in the financial assessment, for example pensions, however you must be left a Personal Expenses Allowance (PEA). The PEA must be at least £24.90 per week. The council has discretion to increase this amount, depending on your circumstances. See below for more information about the means test.
If your needs are primarily health-based, the NHS arrange and pay for your care under NHS continuing healthcare (NHS CHC). If you are eligible for NHS CHC, your care home placement will be free. When assessing your needs, the council must refer you to the NHS if it appears you may be eligible for NHS CHC.
If you do not meet the criteria for NHS CHC, but require nursing care, the NHS pays a contribution towards the cost of the nursing care directly to the nursing home. This is called NHS-funded nursing care (NHS FNC). For more information see our factsheet on NHS Continuing Healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care.
NHS continuing healthcare
Find out if you qualify for NHS funding towards your care home fees
How could the level of finances affect how much I pay for my care?
If your local council carries out a care needs assessment and finds you need a care home place, they will do a means test to work out how much you must contribute towards the cost of your care. This will take into account your income and capital, e.g savings. Certain types of income, such as money from certain disability benefits, are ignored in the means test. This is the same for certain types of capital. All other income and capital can be taken into account.
The value of your property may be included as capital in means test. However, in certain circumstances, the council cannot include your property in the means test. See the information below.
Here’s how the means test for social care will look at your capital and how this will affect how much you pay for your care.
|Your capital||What you will have to pay|
|Over £23,250||You must pay full fees (known as being self-funding).|
|Between £14,250 and £23,250||You contribute from income included in the means test, such as pensions, plus an assumed, or ‘tariff’ income based on your capital between £14,250 and £23,250. The council pay the remaining cost of your care.|
|Less than £14,250||You no longer pay a ‘tariff’ income based on your capital, but you must continue paying from income included in the means test. The council pay the remaining cost of your care.|
Will I have to sell my home to pay for care?
Find out how your property will be valued and in what situations it may not have to be included in the means test.
We're here to help
We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 140 local Age UKs.
Will costs of care vary by location?
Care home fees will vary depending on the area that you live in, the individual care home itself, plus your own personal financial circumstances. Costs average around £600 a week for a care home place and over £800 a week for a place in a nursing home. You can use this cost of care and eligibility in England tool to get an estimate for care costs in your area.
Research indicates that the average cost of residential care varies drastically depending on where in the UK you live, creating a postcode lottery for vulnerable people in need of care.
In 2016/7, the divide between counties in the North and South of England was as much as £230 a week in some cases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, London was found to be the most expensive region to obtain residential care, at a weighted average of £741 a week, whereas the North West was the least expensive at £511. Funding support may be available from your local council if you need help paying for your care.
Frequently asked questions
What if I give away some of my money?
What if I run out of money?
How do I pay my part of the care fees?
Do I get a choice about which care home I live in?
What if I prefer a more expensive care home than the local council will pay for?
What if I only need a short-term or temporary stay in a care home?
For more information
If you need any more detailed information on any of the above topics, visit other pages or download one of our factsheets