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Paying for care - the means test explained

If you’re looking at getting some social care, such as help at home, home adaptations or a care home place, then you may have questions about how to pay for it.

We know this can be a complicated and emotive process, so we'll try to take you through it step-by-step as best we can.


How paying for social care works

Care arranged by a Local Authority is not usually free. In order to arrange social care you need to first get a care needs assessment.

After you’ve had the care needs assessment, and you have an agreed care and support plan, there will be a means test. This is where your Local Authority will ask about your finances and income.


What does the means test involve

The means test is when the local authority looks at your income, savings and property to calculate how much you need to contribute towards the cost of your care and support.

If you need care to stay in your own home the means test won’t include the value of your property.

If you need to move permanently into a care home, the test will usually include the value of your property. 


How will my income be treated in the means test?

Certain types of income, such as money from certain disability benefits and pensions, may not be counted in the means test. All other income can be taken into account.

In some cases, the local authority may also assume that your capital generates an income, which will also be taken into account

It’s also very important to ensure that you get all of your benefits and entitlements. That’s because the means test will assume that you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to, even if you aren't already claiming them.

If you and someone else jointly hold capital, such as a savings account, it’ll be treated as divided equally between the two of you.


Will I have to sell my home to pay for care?

Many people worry that they will have to sell their home to pay for social care. We have a page on how your property will be valued and in what situations it may not have to be included in the means test.

Do I have to sell my home?

Get all the details of how the means test works and what it means for your house


What if I give away some of my money?

You may think about giving away some of your savings, income or property to avoid paying likely care costs, and to give something to your relatives or charity, for example. 

If the council thinks that you have done this to avoid paying care fees they may still assess you as if you still had the money or property that you have given away. This is referred to as deprivation of assets.

Deprivation of assets

Read more about the potential impact of giving away your inheritance


How much will I have to pay for care?

After the means test the local authority should give you a written record of their decision of what you will have to pay and what they will pay, and how they calculated it.

How much you will have to pay will depend on:

  • What type of care and support you need
  • The area you live in (as costs may vary across the country)
  • Your own personal circumstances

If you’re going into a care home, you should not be left with less than £24.90 a week after any contribution to your fees. This is known as your Personal Expenses Allowance.

If you’re getting some home adaptations, paying for these depends on what type of adaptations or equipment you need.


What to do next

Further information

Charges for care are complex, and you should seek more detailed advice from the Age UK advice line on 0800 678 1174. There are changes coming into effect in April 2020 regarding the means test for providing social care. Read more about social care funding changes.

For more information call Age UK on 0800 055 6112

Last updated: Oct 10 2017

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